Robert and Linda Ross of Lake Ronkonkoma, cruised with their...

Robert and Linda Ross of Lake Ronkonkoma, cruised with their son, Paul, 22, and daughter, Stephanie, 19, on the Norwegian Breakaway, where Robert and Linda renewed their wedding vows for their 25th wedding anniversary on July 28, 2016. Credit: DANIELLE BONGIORNO

Chasing my picnic table umbrella down Madison Avenue in Brentwood was not what I had planned back in September 1985, as Hurricane Gloria made her debut on Long Island, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Instead, I wanted to be in school; I had just landed my very first teaching job in the Brentwood School District, and my feeling of excitement was stronger than the fury of Hurricane Gloria.

School was closed due to the weather, delaying me from springing my new career into action. I wanted school to reopen, to be with my students, especially since my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher had finally come to fruition. I wasn’t just playing school in my basement anymore.

The blackboard that I received from Santa many moons earlier was finally laid to rest, and I now had my own classroom with real students: my reluctant sisters and friends who had filled in for them over the years were gladly set free.

Eventually, school did reopen, and my plan of action found its way back on course. From that moment, I’ve had that same level of excitement every September, for 32 years, while teaching in Brentwood! It is unimaginable to me that I am retiring, but I must. I must because I love what I do, and I always want to remember loving it, too. I never went to work, I went to school. I fully supported the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!”

That’s not to say that I didn’t work; how inaccurate that would be. Teaching for me became a part of who I was. I loved teaching, and I belonged in school — a Brentwood school — for it was what I knew well.

In total, I’ve spent 50 years in Brentwood schools as a student and then a teacher: kindergarten to high school graduation, college coursework, which included student teaching, and 32 years as a classroom teacher. The Brentwood community has always been a part of my life, and I’ve always felt connected to it.

Reflecting on my career brings me immeasurable pride and joy. The many students I’ve taught in grades 1, 2, 4, and 5 have made it so rewarding. They have left indelible memories in my heart which I will forever cherish. And even though I am retiring as a teacher, I am also retiring as a student, for my students have taught me countless lessons. Teaching went beyond the books; it was the love, the connections, and the life lessons that resonated in the classroom. The small moments created the biggest memories. Allowing time to share and exchange experiences over the years has enabled growth and success on everyone’s behalf, and for this I am grateful.

As this school year is in progress, I think about what will transpire after my retirement in June 2017. What will be replacing my school mentality, and filling my newly found time? I’ve lived by a school calendar since kindergarten, and much of my free time at home was devoted to school-based projects. Buying new school supplies was fun for me, shopping for color-coded items to coordinate and promote classroom organization was my specialty, Creating Literacy Centers and Math Centers became my hobby. It was what I was passionate about.

Spending more quality time with my family will take center stage. My family is the center of my life and I am very proud of them. My son just started his career as a math teacher in the Bronx, and my daughter is at Binghamton University, pursuing her career as a math teacher. I am honored that they are following in my footsteps, and I am certain that they will find teaching as rewarding as I have. My husband is retired and is excited about vacationing more; he reminds me happily that it won’t be during peak times. We have been cruising these past few years, and we recently took a family cruise to Bermuda to renew our wedding vows for our 25th anniversary. Creating even more memories is something that I look forward to.

So now what? In being true to myself, I ponder: Am I apprehensive about my future? The answer is YES. I knew this on the day I committed to retiring, but I also embraced my decision. Upon retiring, I will only be 55, so I am ready to start a new chapter of my life. As far as continuing to work, I admittedly do surf the web for education-related opportunities; I’m not sure if I’m ready to put the chalk down completely.

Being a teacher has enriched my life as a person, a wife, and as a mother, and I am so blessed to have had 50 golden years in the Brentwood School District. Although I am retiring, my heart will always have a place there!

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