Retiring Teachers1

Frances Montez, Atlas Ingram, and Portia Etheridge are retiring educators from Minor Elementary School. (Photo by Christina Sturdivant)

As a new class of teachers graduate from college and prepare to enter the D.C. Public School system, there are a few things they should know. “It’s not easy – it takes about five years to get it under your belt,” Portia Etheridge, a retiring kindergarten teacher at Miner Elementary School told the AFRO.

“A lot of leave before five years because they’ve got a false perception of what this is about,” says Etheridge who is retiring after 47 years of service, 23 of which were at Miner in Northeast D.C.

Oftentimes, the greatest resource for young teachers to navigate the education system is not their recent college education, but heeding the guidance of seasoned professionals. “At one time it was planted in their minds that we were the ones who were failing the system and they were coming to save it, but once they got into the system they realized that it wasn’t what they thought it was,” says Etheridge.

Basic skills such as classroom management and lesson preparation are vital, says Frances Montez, who is retiring as assistant principal after years eight years at Miner and 50 years in education.

Further, teachers should always be flexible, not just in the classroom. “Many young don’t understand the lives of children and what happens during the night or the weekends,” says Montez, “You really have to know about people, you to be a people person, and be ready to assist any way you can all the time.”

Atlas Ingram, a kindergarten teacher at Miner is no stranger to house visits. “I was speaking to a kid earlier today and he says ‘Ingram that time you came over my house when I was sick and you brought me that fruit basket, you gave me a tie and you had a bag of toys for me’,” says Ingram, who is retiring after 11 years at Miner. “I almost forgot about it because it was earlier in the school year, but that made his day.”

As an African American male, he has boldly answered the call to be a much-needed role model. “A lot of do not have a male presence at home and they need somebody as a father figure,” says Ingram, who began his career wearing a suit and tie everyday to exemplify the importance of professional appearance as a Black man.

As the three educators reflect, there’s much they will miss. “The children and sharing ideas with colleagues,” says Etheridge. “Comraderie,” says Montez. “The songs,” and teaching students through music, says Ingram.

Entrusting their work in the hands of incoming teachers, there’s also much to look forward to: second honeymoons, international and exotic vacations, and a trip to LIVE! Casino — all following a celebration dinner at American Great Steak Buffet for Francis and Etheridge.