Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 was National Retired Educator’s Day, a special day annually observed throughout the United States on the third Monday in November to recognize the men and women whose career involved many years devoted to teaching boys and girls in classrooms all across the country.

Florida is home to thousands of retired women and men who dedicated years of their life educating children, and the Forgotten Coast is home to many who taught in our local schools, as well as those who taught elsewhere but who now enjoy their retirement years in our area.

In recognition of this day, Gov. Rick Scott issued a proclamation stating that “Florida is home to many retired educators who have spent much of their lives giving their time to our students… We recognize Florida's retired educators for their dedication to empowering students and strengthening our local and statewide communities.”

This special day of recognition was first observed in 1979 on the third Sunday in October when then Gov. Bob Graham issued a proclamation declaring the observance. It was celebrated again the same date the following year, but in 1981, the designation of Retired Teacher’s Day (which changed to the Retired Educators Association in 1982) became a law, again signed by Graham, and moved to the third Sunday in November, the date was chosen because it was the Sunday preceding National Education Week, which starts the third Monday in November.

Although a teacher can retire with as few as 10 teaching years, full retirement begins at 30 years’ experience or age 65, with many entering retirement having had three decades plus of teaching time. Many retirees are members of the Florida Retired Educators Association (FREA), which boasts over 13,000 members throughout Florida. The local branch of FREA is the Franklin/Gulf Retired Educators Association (F/GREA), headed by Lois Byrd, a retired elementary teacher from Gulf County with 38 years teaching experience.

“We have approximately 30 members, and the majority of them continue to foster a relationship with our county’s education communities by regularly contributing time and talents to our schools, both in Gulf and Franklin County,” said Byrd, current president of F/GREA. “Individually, we are substitute teachers, mentors, tutors, classroom volunteers, as well as other tasks, offering our assistance in a variety of ways.

“As an organization, we also support our school districts by granting scholarships to graduating seniors, Adopt-a-Teacher Rewards program, providing Valentine’s Day breakfast for faculty and staff, in addition to other activities that support our county’s educators and students,” she said.

Traci Moses, Franklin County School District superintendent, spoke of the importance of those who chose teaching as their career choice. “A career in education is a service career, a calling placed on an individual's life to make a difference and positive impact in the lives of those that they teach,” she said. “The Franklin County School District is very fortunate to have many of our retired educators still participating in some capacity to support our schools. Their contributions are vital to the successes of the students and classrooms, in which they support.

“I am very thankful for the continued work of our retirees in Franklin County, and appreciate how their passion for education drives their desire to continue to make a positive impact in the lives of the students in Franklin County,” Moses said.

Missy Cumbie, past president of F/GREA, who retired from Franklin County Schools in 2013 after 38 years of teaching elementary students, said that “Retired teachers have retired from their classrooms but not from life. Many still find ways to work with children, volunteer in their communities through different organizations, and provide services for those in need.

“Teachers are givers whether they are still working or have retired,” said Cumbie, who owns Magnifying Minds, a tutoring company that provides educational support services for students attending Franklin County’s schools.

If you are a retired teacher residing in Franklin or Gulf County, and not currently a member of F/GREA, you are invited to join the organization. For information on the next meeting date and/or additional information, please contact F/GREA’s secretary Elinor Mount-Simmons at emountsimmons@gmail.com or call (850) 323-0544.

Elinor Mount-Simmons, vice-president and secretary of F/GREA, is a 36-year veteran teacher with Franklin County School District, retiring in 2016. Currently, she is an academic coach with ED Corps (Conservation Corps of Forgotten Coast)