Retiring teachers look forward to new chapter

By Bernardo Verdiguel, Staff–

Classroom teachers James Johnson, William Zinn, Karl Ronning and Jeanne Pettigrew and counselor Courtenay Tessler are all retiring from the academic field after long careers in education.

Johnson decided it was time to retire for various reasons.

“There’s a lot of factors. Part of it was it was starting to feel like I can’t quite keep up with the workload. I’m tired, and I’m old enough that working no longer improves my retirement income, so income is no longer an incentive,” Johnson said.

However, for Johnson it was something of a last minute decision.

“Truth is I never thought I’d retire, I thought they’d have to drag me out kicking and screaming,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a year, and I’ve just decided recently.”

Johnson plans on keeping himself busy post retirement.

“I gotta find something to do or else I’ll go nuts; I’m hoping to come back part time. It’d be nice if I could teach one or two classes, I’d have to wait a year or so. We’ve had some other teachers that have done that though,” Johnson said.

Counselor Courtenay Tessler is also retiring and is looking forward to it.

“I’m 69 years old, so I made a joke to someone, ‘I have my standards, I’m not gonna be 70 working.’ I worked the long haul, and now I want to have fun,” Tessler said.

Tessler is looking forward to relaxing and spending more time on personal hobbies.

“Somebody told me that when you retire, every day is a Saturday, so I’m looking forward to every day being a Saturday,” Tessler said.

Johnson is also looking forward to having a lot of free time.

“I want to volunteer more at my church, thinking about volunteering at the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area. And I got like 100 books I want to read that I never had time for before,” Johnson said.

Tessler’s main regret about retiring is the students.

“I know I’m gonna miss the students a lot. I thoroughly enjoy working with this age group, I really enjoy their energy, their brilliance, their views of the world, and I’m gonna miss that,” she said.

The heartbreak of leaving is not just about the students, however.

“It’s been a joy to work with so many talented adults who are so giving, who can really follow their own passions for learning and relay that passion to students,” she said.

Teacher Jeanne Pettigrew is also retiring from DHS; however, she is not done teaching.

“I’m going back to college work and planning on studying horticulture. I’m looking forward to that, it’ll be easier than teaching 20 different classes,” Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew will be staying in the Yolo County area to continue teaching.

“I’ll probably be teaching at community colleges. I’ve been at UCD before and I really prefer working at the community college level,” she said.

Pettigrew decided it was time to retire when the school board decided to cut the Food Science and Nutrition class from the DHS program.

“The support for career tech classes has dropped. I’ve become an endangered species,” Pettigrew said.

Much like Tessler, Pettigrew will miss the people most of all.

“I really love working with my fellow teachers, they’re well informed, they’re stimulating. The kids come and go but they’re always very interesting,” Pettigrew said.

Finally, English and speech and debate teacher Janine Widman is ending her career at DHS as well because her husband secured a job across the country at the University of Chicago.

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