Edmond Public School’s teacher Carol Stolfa began teaching in the mid-1970s before the Reading Sufficiency Act, before Common Core, before the No Child Left Behind Act, before Smart Boards and smart phones and before the Columbine shooting.
Teaching is in Stolfa’s blood. Her mother was a teacher in the Oklahoma City Public Schools system and an aunt taught at U.S. Grant.
“I really love working with kids,” Stolfa said Monday afternoon, as the calendar advanced another day toward the end of the school year. She was in her second-grade Orvis Risner classroom sifting through items she will either take home, discard or pass on to her successor. “They are just the most innocent creatures there are. Whatever they think comes out their mouth. And they just want to be loved.”
During her Edmond Public Schools career — Stolfa has served the community entirely at Orvis Risner Elementary School — some things have changed a lot. Some have not, like her passion for teaching and the moment a student “gets it.” She has gone through two generations of students, about seven principals and at least 20 students in each class. A former student is a school physical education teacher.
Second graders are like “little sponges,” Stolfa said. Every year there are several students who just can’t get enough instruction.
“They’d stay until 5 o’clock if I were to keep going,” she said as the sound of excited little voices echoed down the hall outside her classroom.
Part of what has kept her loving her job is the variety of achievers she has seen, which ranges from those who don’t need a lot of instruction due to their learning level and those who are afraid they are not going to measure up.
“You teach them, ‘I believe in you. I know you can do this’ and you see them change throughout the year. That is such a joy,” Stolfa said.
Orvis Risner’s mission statement is “to foster citizenship, leadership and scholarship in a safe and positive environment.” Stolfa said when she started, teachers didn’t have all the help they do today. Now there are more resources, specialized teachers and the Edmond Public Schools Foundation. Testing helps identify student instruction needs, Stolfa said.
Edmond Public Schools is a district that stands behind its teachers, Stolfa said. She said an example is the frequent visits Superintendent David Goin makes to the site. He will stick his head in through her classroom door or have lunch with the students.
Stolfa said she is looking forward to spending her retirement working part-time for a church, traveling, doing yard work and reading. At her job, she will still get to use some of her teaching skills.
Stolfa offered some advice to future teachers. She said teachers have to really love and enjoy working with children. They aren’t going to get rich teaching. They will have long hours. They make sacrifices like doing things at home for the classroom.
“If you don’t really love it then you’re not going to last because it’s just too hard these days,” Stolfa said.
Many other teachers and staff members are retiring from Edmond Public Schools. Only one other teacher in the Edmond district retiring this year has taught longer than Stolfa — Jan Smith, a vocal music teacher, who is leaving Memorial High School. Two others join Stolfa in having dedicated 38 years to education — Becki Teague, who works at the administration center, and Mike Jenkins, a social studies teacher at North High School.
“I would like to extend sincere appreciation to retiring certified and support employees who, collectively, have dedicated well over 1,000 years of service to this school community,” Goin said. “Each has made a significant contribution to the overall success of Edmond Public Schools, and we are better for having had the privilege of working alongside them. We wish them hearty congratulations as they enter the next phase of their lives.”
Likewise, teachers are retiring from Deer Creek Public Schools.
“We celebrate the work and achievements of our retiring teachers,” Deer Creek Superintendent Ranet Tippens said. “Again, we hate to see them go and yet we are happy about the blessings the future holds for them and their families.”
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