Teachers Spend Last Few Months Before Retirement in Shutdown

Melinda Reed, Layout Editor-in-Chief

The coronavirus pandemic has left no person or place completely unscathed. Some people have lost a loved one to the disease, some have lost jobs due to the troubled economy, and others are simply trying to make it through quarantine. Teachers at Morris Hills have been tailoring their lessons to the new conditions, but for the retiring teachers of the school, no amount of virtual class time can make up for the loss of these last few months in the year.

The fourth quarter is typically the time in which these educators say farewell to their students, the school, and their profession. This May 11th was the original date for the teachers’ association’s celebration for retirees. The event is now pushed to August 24th, but the indefinite shutdown has cast this date in doubt. 

For French teacher Mrs. Maccaro, one of this year’s two retirees, the loss of the last few months is heartbreaking. “Everybody I talk to keeps saying to me, ‘I feel so bad for you,’ ” she explained. “Who would’ve thought that it would have ended that I couldn’t say goodbye?”

Mrs. Maccaro has worked in the Morris Hills Regional District for many years and is an integral part of the World Language Department. Though she loves teaching, she feels it is time for a change in her life and plans to travel, volunteer at her sister parish in Haiti, and “do things I don’t usually get to do, because I’m working all the time.”

Never has this been more true than in quarantine. Between students working with her on different schedules and creating assignments, Mrs. Maccaro has worked thirteen hour days. The most difficult part of this experience, however, is not being able to see her students. “I’m a people person,” she said of the issue. “I want to hear from my students.” 

Mr. Schuenzel, who has worked in the Morris Hills Regional District for over 25 years, faces a similar dilemma. “My favorite part of teaching at Hills has been the interactions in the classroom. The relationship between teacher and students is very special.”

Along with losing this aspect of teaching, Mr. Schuenzel is unfortunately missing the 20th anniversary of the Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering. The event promised to bring teachers and Academy alumni together. Since Mr. Schuenzel came to Hills to help start the Academy 20 years ago, it would also be a tribute to his many years of teaching and positive influence. 

Luckily for Morris Hills students, Mrs. Maccaro and Mr. Schuenzel are finding other ways to say goodbye to their students. Mr. Schuenzel created a farewell video for the Academy seniors, and both teachers plan to return to school next year to see their students one last time. 

In his video to the Academy seniors, Mr. Schuenzel shared his thoughts and sadness with his students. “We live in difficult times right now. This was supposed to be the best time… a lot of the [end-of-year celebrations] are not going to happen, at least not the way we originally thought.” He encouraged his students to accept the current situation, with all its pain and struggle. “I do believe that how we say goodbye and bring closure to a certain stage of our life is important… I think we just need to spend some time being sad about it. I think it’s a good thing to do.”

With the long-term effects of school shutdown still unknown, all seniors and retiring teachers can do is mourn the loss of their last few months at Hills.