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School district recognizes retirees


Germantown teachers’ efforts were recognized last week during the final days of the school year as the district made a point to say good-bye to several educators as they head into retirement.

These longtime teachers were honored with a luncheon at Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill and also received memento ornaments from the art teachers and students of Riverdale Elementary as a lasting reminder of their time with GMSD.

“The art teachers of Riverdale have produced these amazing student-made keepsakes each year for our retirees,” said event organizer and Human Resources Supervisor Elissa Stratton. “It’s a chance to bring our retirees together with their principals and reflect on their educational experiences and all of the memories of working with our students.”

During the annual tradition, which began with the creation of the Germantown School District, retirees enjoyed opening remarks by Superintendent Jason Manuel, an inspirational reading by School Board Chairman Linda Fisher, and a speech by Assistant Superintendent Dan Haddow.

In addition, the City of Germantown crafted a Mayoral Proclamation naming May 15 as “GMSD Retiree Appreciation Day.”

Renee Blackwell – Dogwood Elementary

Blackwell is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia with a B.S. in Dental Hygiene and the University of Memphis with a Masters of Arts in Teaching.

She has been teaching for 18 years with the past 12 years at Dogwood Elementary School, where she has taught Kindergarten. Blackwell has also taught First Grade and has been a school tutor for all grades K – 5 at Farmington Elementary School and Highland Oaks Elementary School.

Dental Hygiene was her first career choice. Blackwell’s hope for her students is that they remember that trying and failing is part of learning and it is nothing to be upset about. Her advice to aspiring teachers is to remember it’s about the children, what you can do for the students to help them reach their potential.

After retirement, Blackwell plans to travel, spend time with family, and enjoy each and every day.

Roger Harris – Houston High

Harris is a graduate of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and has been teaching Economics at Houston High School for the past 11 years.

He taught in Florida, Memphis and Halls before opening a farm equipment dealership in 1973. Harris sold that business in 1992 and farmed full-time with his son until a 17-inch rainstorm caused a levee to break, destroying all of his crops. He came back to teaching in 2003.

Harris arrives faithfully for work every morning at 5 a.m. He opens 34 doors, turns on all the lights and makes coffee every day. Oftentimes he is the first in and the last out of Houston HS.

He takes tickets at all sporting events and is a Houston Mustang for life. He is affectionately known as “The Godfather” by the Houston High School staff.

Suzanne Hatsell – Houston High

Hatsell is a graduate of UT – Martin, Memphis State University and Trevecca University and taught for 31 years and 6 months.

She taught Biology B and Honors Biology at Houston High School for the last 10 years. Besides Houston High, Mrs. Hatsell has taught at Farmington Elementary School (where she had a seventh grader named Jason Manuel in her class), Bartlett High School and Germantown High School. She estimates that there have been about 4,500 students in her classroom.

In school, she wanted to study political science, psychology, math, English and science. She finally majored in biology and minored in English and then decided to share her love of these subjects by teaching.

Hatsell hopes her students have learned that hard work, dedication and determination will help you reach your goals. After retirement, she plans to enjoy being a wife, mother, and a daughter.

Nicole Kavoian – Farmington Elementary

Kavoian has worked as a Paraprofessional at Farmington Elementary School since 2002. She previously worked as a flight attendant for Pan Am for eight years.

Kavoian left the corporate world for her job at Farmington initially to have more time with her children but stayed after she learned how much she loved working with the students.

Her hope for her students is that they be challenged to perform to their potential and to have a good experience in their school environment. After retirement, Kavoian plans to do some projects at home and to travel.

Tara Martin – Houston High/Houston Middle

Martin is a graduate of the College of Wooster and the University of Michigan and has been teaching for 16 years with the last year at Houston High School and Houston Middle School.

She has taught German, as well as Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Trigonometry, to students from middle grades up to adults at the University of Memphis, Germantown High School, and in schools in Ohio and Michigan.

Martin estimates that 2,200 students have been in her classroom. Teaching was her first career choice, being inspired by her third grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson and her high school German teacher, Frau Zibas. Mrs. Martin’s hope for her students is for them to continue to learn German and think that learning about the German language and culture is fun.

Her advice to aspiring teachers is to be enthusiastic about what you are teaching so your students will enjoy your subject as much as you do. After retirement, she plans to relax and travel.