Headed Out: Retiring Staff Members Reflect and Look Ahead to Future

Heba Asfari, Sports editor

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Each year, Paint Branch must deal with people departing. It begins with seniors who graduate and move on to the next stage of their lives. Then come the teachers and staff members who decide that it is time to retire, time to move on and see what the future holds.
This year, PB must say goodbye to five long-time staff members, Mr. Stuart Miller, Mrs. Denise Smith, Mr. Vincent Massey, Mrs. Karen Sondak, and Mrs. Maureen Kimber.
Mr. Vincent Massey taught for 19 years at Paint Branch and 28 years overall.
At Paint Branch, he taught Engineering, Computer Apps. (Dbase, Excel), and Business (Entrepreneurship).

One of the remarkable moments that Paint Branch left him with was when an earthquake took place in the old building. He remembers this well and as a serious surprise.
He admits that the relationships that of all things he established at Paint Branch will be missed the most.
His plan after departing is to “start with going to the beach and staying as long as I want and not have to worry about rushing back to set up for the upcoming year.”

Lastly, he hopes that people will keep in mind to “Always put ‘GOD’ FIRST in everything that you do, and whatever you start always try to start the right way and end the right way.
Mr. Stuart Miller has been a teacher at Paint Branch for his entire thirteen year teaching career. Mr. Miller taught AP United States Government, NSL Honors Government, Comparative Government, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, and Gilder Lehrman US History electives.
Mr. Miller’s prime memory occurred on his very first day in the classroom. He recalls being nervous about teaching an advanced placement class, since he had not taught any class before. He says that he walked in as the bell rang and saw a student, Azah Ndeh, giving him a bright smile that made him feel so welcome and at at ease that he knew “[it] is going to be ok.”

He reminisces about the interactions that he has had with PB students, and notes that their energy and passion was something he always enjoyed. As for what he will do in retirement, he sees some good things on the horizon, including playing a lot of golf and getting involved with the Washington Nationals Baseball Youth Organization as a volunteer tutor.
As for offering some departing advice, Mr. Miller wants students to “just keep making progress. Keep moving forward. When something gets in your way, find a way around it. Don’t quit just because things don’t go perfectly.”

Ms. Denise Smith taught five years at PB and has been a teacher for twenty-five years. Here at PB, Ms. Smith taught Child Development 1-3, Child Development Internship, Food Trends, and International Cultures & Cuisine.

Her most heartwarming memory of teaching involves being on a field trip with the preschoolers with whom her high school students were working. They “recognized the performer we were watching in a play was creating a pattern, and that meant that my high school student teachers did an excellent job teaching them about AB patterns.”

This type of memory is why she says that she will miss interacting with students and staff the most. Her plans for retirement are to relax and enjoy life. Her departing message includes a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” In Ms. Smith’s words, “don’t be a follower, but, instead, be a leader and make your own destiny.”

Mrs. Karen Sondak taught for twenty-nine years, fourteen at Paint Branch. She taught Biology, Horticulture, Environmental Science, and AP Environmental Science.
She recalls the best memory being the Chesapeake Bay field trip that take place every year and with about 35 students. They stay in a Chesapeake Bay Foundation Lodge, and for three days they are in the shoes of a person who lives on the bay. This experience includes: stargazing, riding a boat, crabbing, taking hikes, and studying ecology of the area. One time they were at a lodge in the middle of the Chesapeake and there was no electricity; so in order to produce it, they had someone ride a bicycle for the water to run.

She will miss most about teaching those students who are resistant to the subject at first and then wind up enjoying the subject-along with funny things students say and snow days.
After retiring, she plans on catching up on sleep, read, volunteer, garden do mosaics, along with long walks with her dogs and travel.

She leaves us with encouraging words that say “’think hard about what you really want to do and then go after it’. There is nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it.”
Mrs. Maureen Kimber taught for thirty years overall, eighteen of them at Paint Branch. She taught English to sophomores, juniors, and seniors at all levels, including Advanced Placement.
She reports that she has had many great memories at Paint Branch but what she recalls the most are her first day of teaching at Paint Branch, her first day at the new building, and her thoughtful colleagues who she shares so many memories with. However, she says that what she will miss most are the students and the lessons that they taught her everyday. As for her plan after retiring, she sees herself traveling with her husband, visiting her grandchildren, and reading.

A departing message she shares is “ Enjoy your life and enjoy those around you. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, my mission in life should not be to merely survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, [lots of] humor, and some style. I’ll be working on this.”
As these educators depart, PB wishes them well and thanks them for their hard work and passion for teaching. Enjoy retirement!

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