High school sweethearts retire after 40 years of teaching
By SARAH ELSESSER
Jun. 09, 2018
LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. (AP) — After a combined 80 years of teaching, Kim and Barbara Grinder have said goodbye to the world of lesson planning, standardized testing and disciplining students.
But there were no cartwheels down the hallways, throwing of papers or a big retirement party at Seminole Ridge High School on the first Friday in June. Barbara said she wanted an "Irish goodbye," where she walks out the school doors with no sappy farewells.
For decades the two — who were high school sweethearts — have molded young minds, but their journeys began differently. Kim always knew he wanted this career, while Barbara was pushed into it.
"I've always wanted to be a teacher. I've always been a teacher," said Kim, who has taught at Seminole Ridge for all of its 13 years. "And, I've loved what I've done." He previously taught at Royal Palm Beach High School and Crestwood Middle.
Barbara said her husband "was born to be a teacher. I've had to work at it for many years." She previously taught at Cypress Trails Elementary for 18 years.
Barbara wanted to be a dentist, but her father decided teaching was a more suitable career for a woman.
After graduating college, the two got married in 1973 and started their 40-year careers at separate schools in a town just south of Buffalo, New York.Their small town's economy was driven by the steel plants and when the plants started closing in the 1980s, people started losing their jobs — including Barbara.
In 1984, the couple made the move to Royal Palm Beach, where they still live. When the Grinders moved to the area, they said there was no Seminole Ridge High School, the closest grocery store was in West Palm Beach and Okeechobee Boulevard was a dirt road.
The two have watched the population skyrocket from 3,000 to more than 30,000 and have seen their profession change immensely.
"When I started, students were willing to work," said Kim, who taught AP English. "AP students are still willing, still motivated to work. But outside of the AP students, I think the work ethic is just not there."
Barbara, who taught reading and regular English at Seminole Ridge for 11 years, said teaching today is a challenge, especially with technology.
"For some (students), it's digital heroin. It's techno-crack," she said. "It's like they don't know how to stop or put the phones down."
While they both acknowledge how wonderful technology in the classroom can be, they say it becomes too much when it's test time.
"Computer-based testing ." Kim started to say before sighing, "it's so bad. It's so awful."
His wife agreed. "We aren't a fan of computer-based tests, but that's the wave of the future," she said.
They also aren't fans of the many tests students have to take. Barbara said it gets students "stuck in this track" where they believe they aren't as smart as the other students because they didn't test well.
"Say you had a headache that day and didn't do well, you're going to fail," she said. "If you had a fight with your mom and you didn't test well, there you go. You just blew it. You just unknowingly decided your fate for the next year."
Sometimes, though, Kim said, you'll get an attentive teacher like his wife and things can change for the students.
"She had a number of students that she taught two years in a row and saw something in them. She recommended them for my AP class," he said. "Those students did so well. They worked hard. It was a lovely change for me."
Barbara chimed in, "No. It was a lovely change for them."
While students can be a challenge and the state tests might not be ideal, Barbara asked herself out loud, "Do we love our jobs?"
She answered, "Of course we love our jobs. We wouldn't have stayed in this field for so long if we didn't."
She said that her favorite part of her career was teaching first grade because you can see the direct impact.
"Nothing is better than first grade. (It's) the only grade that you can actually see that you have truly taught," she said. "They walked in and might not be able to read a great deal, but they walk out and might be reading on a grade level ahead. And you're like 'Yes!' "
Kim said he has never wanted to do anything else with his life besides teach. He joked that he's enjoyed his career so much because the students "help keep me young-ish."
"I'm actually pretty good with the lingo, but my students would probably say not so much," said Kim. "I could tell someone to get woke. I know what lit means."
Barbara laughed so hard while listening to her husband that she had to take her glasses off the top of her head and said, "I can't even text."
Now the two are ready for a change.
"I always thought I could keep going indefinitely," Kim said. "But when we lost our child in 2016, at that point, it was like 'OK. How much time do we have together left together?' "
Their son, James, was killed by a drunken driver in West Palm Beach. He was 36. While this is still a painful moment in the couple's lives, Barbara said she uses it as advice for her students now.
"I told them nobody escapes heartbreak. Nobody escapes it," she said. "I told them all I want is for them to be tough. It's a tough world out there."
Kim's advice to his students is to "play the game" of life.
"At the end of every week to celebrate that we played the game, that we got through the week, I'll end with something called 'The moment,' " said Kim. "It's a little video or commercial to make the kids laugh. They wait all week for the moment."
Kim said his students also wait all year for the six-word memoir, which is a fun project to sum up their year with him in six words.
And, after four decades, Kim is giving out one last assignment — to himself. He is going to write a six-word memoir, summing up the past 13 years at Seminole Ridge. Then he and his wife will officially retire.
"We gotta go while the going is good," Barbara said.
"We gotta leave them wanting more," added Kim.
Information from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, http://www.pbpost.com