The Life of a Retired AVID TeacherPosted by AVID Center on 10/30/2019
By Cora Kiene, Retired AVID Elective Teacher & Coordinator
So I’m retired! That means no lesson plans and no 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. field trips. That sounds great, doesn’t it? However, retirement also means no students. For some, that comes as a relief, but for me, it’s a sad loss.
Every year, I would consider retiring, but there was always the younger sibling of a former student coming up. I would stay for them. Being an AVID teacher, I became a second mom, or at least a distant relative, for my students. I worried about more than their grades. I hugged them when their hearts were broken by the love of their life. I felt their pain. I felt this so deeply that, when a young man chose to break up with one of my students on Valentine’s Day, I went next door to his class to speak with him, then took him to my class, where the young lady sat in tears, and told him to apologize for being so uncaring on that particular holiday. I explained to him and all the class that there are certain rules to be followed in the world of dating; breaking up with someone on Valentine’s Day was a definite foul. He apologized and became one of my students by proxy, coming to me for advice on school and life. I always told my students that once they step into my classroom, they become my child for life. I promised them I would always be there. I would be brutally honest if need be, but I would also be the ear and shoulder they needed.
Do I miss my past students? No! I don’t miss them because they keep in touch with me. If they need me, they have my phone number. They call when they need help, whether that is with school or with other problems. Sometimes, they call because they miss me. (That is the best, of course.)
You see, an AVID teacher is one of a kind. We care and love our students deeply. We adopt new kids into our AVID family every year. We beam with pride when our students succeed. We hurt when they hurt. We remain strong, we give them the shoulder to lean on, and we work to help them find a path out of the darkness.
I started with AVID before there was an established curriculum. There were no books and no written lessons, but we were encouraged to make a difference in the lives of our students. I taught my first class in the summer for a group of incoming seventh grade students. One young lady was struggling with her sexual identity. I saw the struggles and hurt behind her eyes. We did a lot of family bonding and discussed how families support each other. We worked on the topic of accepting the differences of others, whether it was their religion, ethnicity, economic background, or sexual orientation. I watched this young lady gain the courage to show who she really was, something she was able to do because of the love and acceptance her AVID family showed her. She knew they would be there to support her. AVID provides students the opportunity to have a support system throughout their education. After that life-changing experience, I knew I wanted to stay with AVID. I was hooked.
AVID allowed me to grow as a teacher and as a person. If you look back to the 2011 Summer Institute in Dallas, you can hear my life story and what AVID meant, and still means, to me. Retiring was a hard decision to make, as it meant no longer having the opportunity to affect students’ lives. The pain of letting those younger siblings down is almost unbearable, but if you have done your job and made true connections, your influence will continue.
That was something I realized shortly after school started again. I had freshmen college students texting me for help with schoolwork and for other support. They were afraid, didn’t think they could make friends, couldn’t understand their professors, or missed their family. I was there for them when they were my students, and I will always be there for them now. I am godmother to some of my past students’ children. I get invited to college graduations, weddings, baby showers, and so forth.
The hardest part of being an AVID teacher is those desperate cries for help. Recently, I found out that one of my former students had overdosed. Her previous AVID teacher had informed me of her troubles, so I was already aware when she stepped into my classroom her freshman year. I didn’t allow her to think of herself as anything but worthy. I worked with her daily and was proud of the young lady I was sending on. Do I feel disheartened? Yes. Do I reach out to her again? Of course I do.
As you can see, the work of an AVID teacher never ends. As a retired AVID teacher, I can now say that the paperwork is done, but the heart will never stop caring. I truly feel that my students were placed in my path. I envy the lives that you will enrich, the connections that you will make, and the love you will share. Don’t be afraid to give them your all. Take pride in being an AVID teacher!
Cora Keine began her teaching career late in life. Upon graduation from The University of Texas at Arlington, she taught at Hutchinson Jr. High in Arlington, Texas. This is where she was first introduced to AVID. She then moved to Crowley ISD, where she taught English and then AVID when it was brought into the district. Cora retired from Crowley ISD after 24 years of teaching. As a retired teacher, she still keeps in touch with past students.