VERGENNES — Four longtime Addison Northwest Supervisory Union employees are stepping down this spring, including a Vergennes Union High School teacher and an ANwSU administrative assistant with a combined 69 years of service.
VUHS English and reading teacher Cathy Spaulding will retire after 35 years at VUHS and a year at the ANwSU office, while ANwSU administrative assistant Sally Bushey will leave after working in the office since 1977.
Also departing after dedicating 20 years each to ANwSU are Ferrisburgh Central School first-grade teacher Ann Matteson and VUHS library aide Lenore Morse.
Spaulding’s first year at ANwSU was a grant-funded position that she described as being “a jack of all trades.” She said she worked that school year as a librarian, served as a special educator, and helped at the main office. In September 1975, she joined the VUHS faculty.
There, Spaulding has taught a French exploratory course as well as reading and English. For five years she oversaw the transition in the junior high grades from a standard classroom approach to the interdisciplinary team-teaching approach now used at the middle school.
VUHS Co-principal Ed Webbley praised Spaulding’s strong work ethic and insistence on the same from her students.
“She’s an educator from the old school who had really high standards, and held kids to high standards,” Webbley said. “She’s a true old pro who worked hard.”
Webbley said Spaulding also never stopped learning to improve and recently took a technology course and used it to teach a successful course on visual literacy.
“She discovered technology at the end of her career and went out with a bang,” he said. “The kids benefited from it.”
Spaulding, a native Vermonter who was raised in Connecticut, said she came from a family of teachers: Her mother and three of her six siblings went into the profession.
She said she has typically put in at least 70 hours a week.
“People are used to seeing my light on at night,” Spaulding said.
She did not necessarily make the decision to retire to ease her schedule.
“I just thought the amount of time was enough. I just decided I’d like to do all the things I’d like to do,” Spaulding said.
The Shelburne resident’s list includes spending time studying the history of the Vermont and its current status (she wants to “join the 251 club” by visiting every Vermont community), pursuing hobbies that include photography and reading, and spending time with her family, including her three children.
But that’s not all. Spaulding is also certified in teaching English as a second language, and will seek a part-time job in that field while continuing to work part-time at the South Burlington J.C. Penney store. And Spaulding plans to become a guardian ad litem, a volunteer who helps guide juveniles enmeshed in the court system through the process.
Spaulding agreed she does not intend to slow down.
“Absolutely. That’s the way I’ve always been,” she said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I just stopped.”
On the other hand, Bushey said she might develop concrete plans, but first would take a deep breath.
“People tell me that’s what retirement is, that you take it one day at a time and enjoy it,” Bushey said. “That’s my plan, for now anyway.”
ANwSU Superintendent Tom O’Brien said Bushey’s reliability, experience and knowledge of the five ANwSU towns would be hard to replace, adding that Bushey “knows more than all of us put together” about the district.
“Sally is a huge loss, not only to me as superintendent, because she’s been my right arm for eight years ... but she’s also been a consistent and positive component of Addison Northwest for 33 years,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said that as an employee she brought “all the attributes you can think of,” but had no complaint about her decision.
“It’s time for Sal to take some time for herself,” he said. “For all of Addison Northwest, we wish her all the best.”
Like Bushey, Matteson is leaving ANwSU after a 33-year career, but only the final 20 came within ANwSU. Before Matteson’s 20 years at Ferrisburgh Central, she taught at a one-room Pomfret schoolhouse, at the Sherburne Elementary School, and for one year at a California private school before returning to Vermont and successfully applying for the FCS job.
All but one of those years were spent with first-graders, Matteson said, and the Rhode Island native and University of Vermont alum wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It’s always been my place to be. It’s a pretty exciting year,” she said. “By the time they leave first grade, they’re reading and writing, and they’re independent for themselves. It’s pretty rewarding to see in a year.”
Matteson lives now in Waterville in Lamoille County, and has for two decades been willing to drive 75 minutes each way to her job at FCS.
“It’s a special place,” she said. “It’s a great school. There’s lots of parental support. They’re great kids.”
Matteson said she retired because there were “just other things I wanted to do,” including spending more time in her garden and then for the first time having the time to can her produce this fall. She will also strap on her downhill and Nordic skis more often this winter.
Eventually, Matteson intends to seek part-time work, but she is in no hurry.
“I don’t plan on doing anything this summer except gardening,” she said.
FCS Principal JoAnn Taft-Blakely said Matteson’s “student-centered” approach will be missed. She noted one unit Matteson offers, on butterflies, has particularly inspired some young pupils.
“We have students studying entomology in college because of the connections she made for them,” she said.
Typically, the school has a day in which VUHS seniors come back and visit. Matteson’s name often comes up, Taft-Blakeley said.
“Several of them were saying things about their experience with Ann. She certainly has a lifelong impact on students,” she said.
Finally, Webbley said Morse’s work in the VUHS library has also made a positive impact in the past two decades.
“Her service to students and teachers has truly set her apart,” said the principal. “She eagerly, but quietly, helps kids with writing, research, and book selection. And our students respect her without exception.”
That respect can be seen in this year’s VUHS yearbook — it is co-dedicated to Morse, who served as the yearbook advisor for seven years, and Nancy Kuhns.
Morse earned a Ph.D. is in English Education from Ohio State University, and Webbley said Morse has put her background to good use working with VUHS librarian Chris Brady.
“I was absolutely stunned when I started looking at our book collection in the library,” he said. “Chris ... humbly referred my praise to Lenore. He whispered in my ear that she was the most educated person working in our district.”
Morse, a Vergennes resident, started at VUHS in 1990 as a substitute, and stayed on because, she said, “VUHS students and teachers make work a pleasure.”
This summer, she will spend three weeks in London, and then begin volunteering at the Bixby Library. She intends to “stay active and healthy” by taking on other volunteer work, gardening and cross-country skiing more, spending more time with her grandchildren, and increasing her workload at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Her reasons for stepping down echo those of the other ANwSU retirees.
“It’s the right time, and friends, mostly retired teachers, are enjoying themselves so much I decided to join the crew,” Morse said.
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at email@example.com.