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Retiring Narragansett teachers leave legacy behind in classroom

June 27, 2012

Superintendent of Schools Katherine Sipala praised the work and dedication of outgoing teachers at last week's School Committee meeting.

NARRAGANSETT—As the students leave for new challenges and summer vacation locales, teachers remain behind a bit longer. Some recap the experiences of the previous year, scrutinizing what could have been done better and what worked well. A select few, however, will pack up their belongings and not return as they retire from the teaching world.

Narragansett School System will lose six educators to retirement this year; at the Elementary School, Speech and Language Pathologist Christine DeTour, fourth grade teacher Kathleen Ward-Bowen, third grade teacher Pamela Westkott, second grade teacher Elaine Eisenhaure, and kindergarten teacher Susan Parkinson. Narragansett High School nurse Judy Frank will be retiring as well.

DeTour, who has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist at Narragansett Schools since 1991, was praised by her colleagues last week during Wednesday’s School Committee meeting.

“Her experience is difficult to capture in words, but her story is captured by hundreds, perhaps thousands of families,” said Elizabeth Pinto, Administrator of Student Services. “She has practiced her craft for 35 years and is a lifelong learner.”

“She is an advocate for those who cannot speak themselves and has mentored many, both formally and informally,” she added. “I am awed by Chris, and so many owe her so much gratitude for her steady presence, the sharing of her measurable expertise, and her positive outlook.”

Detour has worked with students during their most crucial developmental periods, from kindergarten to second grade, and said that helping children to learn to communicate is reward enough.

“I feel fortunate that I have spent most of my 35-year professional career working with the students and staff at the Narragansett Elementary School,” said DeTour.  “To me, what makes NES special is that it is a school where everyone works together to meet the needs of all our students.”

Detour also praised her colleagues, stating that without their hard work, her career would not have been so fruitful.

“I have worked alongside exceptional teachers and therapists and dedicated teaching assistants,” said DeTour. “Every day I learned something from them and, I believe, these experiences have made me a better therapist.  Over the years, I also had the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience as a mentor to new teachers and a supervisor to graduate students in speech pathology.”  

Detour now plans to spend time with her family and travel with her husband, Thomas.

The other retirees were honored at last Wednesday’s School Committee meeting as well, and thanked for their contributions over the years.

“This is a bittersweet time of the school year as we say goodbye to staff,” said Superintendent Katherine Sipala Wednesday evening. “It really is a significant time. All week, the administrators have been saying that they are happy for the retirees, but sad that we are losing people of their commitment and knowledge. It is a huge loss.”

The outgoing teachers commended the entire school district on the freedom and responsibility which they were given by administration, allowing them to focus on what mattered most: the education of Narragansett’s students.

“[Teaching at NES] has truly been a privilege, and it was a great run,” said Ward-Bowen. “I loved my job and it was great fun to be here.”

“The best way to describe working in Narragansett is through example,” said Parkinson. “One day, a little boy came into our class, looked around the room, and said, ‘Mrs. Parkinson, this is Camelot.’ And that is truly what it is.”

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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