SOLON– Students who were anxiously getting ready for the final bell to ring have gone home for the summer, and now teachers Tama Hemann and Diane Kopp are clearing out their rooms one last time.
Both retired this year, Kopp having taught for 37 years, and Hemann 41 years– each of them had dream classes this year, and with grandchildren to care for, the timing just felt right.
“I think the change isn’t going to hit us until it’s time for school next year,” Hemann said, seated next to Kopp at an elementary student desk. “Because we’ve always packed up at the end of the year, and said goodbye to the kids.”
On Monday night, June 3, Lakeview staff organized an end-of-year, and well-wishing retirement party for Hemann and Kopp at Saddleback Ridge Golf Course. Family, friends, co-workers and the Lakeview retirees were all in attendance.
“They made a little bit of fun of us,” Kopp said with a chuckle. “But it was great.”
Hemann feels as though retiring from teaching is simply another chapter in her involvement with the Solon community. She hopes to still see everyone around, and may to volunteer with a hospice or crisis center.
Kopp said she also plans to keep up with a routine and volunteer somewhere, such as the school or a local hospital. In whatever new work she does, she said the one thing she will truly miss is reading to the kids.
“But I feel like we can still do that with our grandkids,” Hemann pointed out. “Even with all the technology now, and [children] reading their own Ipads– they still love just listening and looking at pictures in books.”
As elementary school teachers, Hemann and Kopp were often searching for imaginative ways to involve the kids in learning. Kopp said this almost always carried-on long after school hours were over. She fondly remembers watching family movies with the lights on so she could see herself grading papers, and crafting class materials.
“I’m gonna miss creating activities,” she said. “I don’t know how I’ll sit at night with the T.V. on without doing something else.”
She believes students should always remember to ask questions so that they can truly learn the subject. Her philosophy centers on the student understanding the topic, versus memorization.
“Ask questions so that you know what you’re doing, and it will stick with you longer,” she said in a message to her students.
Kopp also said teachers should work to make students feel loved and safe in the classroom. Hemann offered wisdom of her own, and said it is the student’s responsibility to speak out if they do not understand.
“It’s our job to make them comfortable enough to do that,” she said.
Like seasons in sports, the school years cycled round from a dashing start to a gentle end– from August to June. And after decades of raising and teaching the future leaders of Solon, and beyond, Kopp and Hemann are quietly hanging up the towel. Although they will never again experience the fresh start of a new school year, the new retirees will fondly look back on their careers, and will always be Solon teachers.
“I always felt like my job was also my hobby,” Kopp said. “I loved it.”
Hemann agreed. “[Teaching] is not a job,” she said. “It’s your life.”