Staying active after retirement

Opinion: Columns

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By Vee Bright

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The sole purpose of my blog is to promote "healthy aging," and to highlight issues that may in some ways positively impact my readers.

Retired Oak Park and River Forest High School teacher Norbert Teclaw is a good example of healthy aging. Here he shares memories and a glimpse of his life after retirement:

I came to OPRF from an idyllic community where I had a home on the lake, and was in my third year of teaching. Lou Fritzmeyer interviewed me for a teaching position at OPRF. Intimidation is the one word that best comes to mind when I think of my early years. My values appeared to be so much different since my background was rural.

It was Sputnik that gave me my real break in teaching. The National Science Foundation made it possible to compete with Russia, and therefore I enhanced my science teaching skills by earning my master's degree in 1968.

Teaching became a life of increasing facets. Never mind overcoming the idiosyncrasies of teaching; I was not above standing on my head on the demonstration desk to get student's attention. I discovered that making learning interesting was the key to student interaction even as I grew older. I worked with students in Open Hand, an early student human relations club, and the Club on Ethics, which sponsored an annual event with Fenwick and Trinity High School.

Transition to retirement

I became a director and later a team member of an alternative high school called The Experimental Program at OPRF. This program allowed each student's curriculum to encompass their particular interests. I bonded with these students, and I remember them fondly. The last six years allowed me to become acquainted with the "regular school" as we called it. Upon retirement, I became the volunteer coordinator for the high school where parents and other volunteers provided 2,500 hours of direct service to the classroom.

Post-retirement

After my retirement from OPRF, I became the president of the Midwest Center for Citizen Initiatives (MCCI), part of a larger organization in San Francisco. We trained business consultants who were sent to Russia to teach business courses and recruit 30 Russians each time to be placed in a similar business of their own. MCCI then found housing for each of the Russians. After their 30 days were up, they returned and became Russian Business Fellows to recruit additional participants in our U.S. program. This program ended in 1996 when the Aid to International Development program to Russia ended.

Then an opportunity to host a celebration for the Centennial of Dr. Percy Julian's birth was made available to me. Joan Bowman, Percy Julian' personal secretary wrote a letter in the Wednesday Journal asking that someone begin the preparations for the Julian celebration.

When I realized that no planning was in the works, I decided to find a group of people who would serve as the planning committee. We raised enough money and sold tickets for a banquet at the old Mar Lac House banquet hall. The money left over went to create and cast a bust of Dr. Julian now placed next to the public library entrance in Scoville Park. A copy of the bust is also placed at DePauw University where Percy did his seminal work.

I thought this would end my work with Dr. Julian's family until I happened to actually meet Joan Bowman, who made it impossible for me to say no to her request to continue to honor the life of Dr. Julian. The celebration committee became the board for the non-profit, Institute for Science Education and Technology (ISET.)

We were more than willing to help and in November 2007 we hosted a national showing of the NOVA production Forgotten Genius at Percy Julian Middle School.

My former colleagues and contacts from OPRF came in handy as the high school became the host institution for the Percy Julian Symposium. We have just completed our 14th Annual Percy Julian Symposium, a high school science research competition where we invite students from a variety of schools to compete in science, technology and mathematics. As recently noted, this year's competition winners included many OPRF students. As you can see, my transition into retirement from teaching was quite gradual and natural, so much so that I often do not feel that I am fully retired but still in transition.

Leisure and activity

My wife Nancy and I have traveled to Russia, the Caribbean, and we have traveled with the Oak Park-River Forest Rotary Club, to assist in their projects in South America.

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