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Bath, ME (July 7, 2020) – Regional School Unit (RSU) 1 recently celebrated the well-deserved retirement of four teachers who taught in the district for a combined 129 years.
Barbara Mills was the physical education teacher at Bath Middle School (BMS) for 25 years and a substitute teacher and ed tech for 5 years before that; a total of 30 years of service to Bath schools and RSU 1. While at BMS she coached several sports, including field hockey, basketball, and softball, and spent time running intramural programs and the BMS Wellness Team.
Mills, a past recipient of the Maine Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance’s Middle School PE Teacher of the Year, said she has always loved school, loved learning, and has always been an athlete, so the path to becoming a PE teacher was natural for her. She received her master’s degree in education leadership from the University of New England.
“I truly appreciate what Barb brought to BMS as a teacher leader,” said BMS Principal Brandon Ward. “She was always passionate about doing what was in the best interest for our students and worked hard to get to know them and celebrate them as individuals. As a person, they do not come any better. Barb set an example for all staff to follow, myself included, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her at BMS. I thank her for all that she did for our students, their families, and our BMS community.”
Mills said her greatest reason for teaching was her connection with her students. “I have always found it important for kids to know how much I care about them. I loved my job for all those years, and I hope the kids I taught know how much they impacted my life.”
Educational Technician Elise Copeland has been working with gifted and talented students grades 3 – 6 since 1990. The past few years of her 30-year career have been spent at Fisher Mitchell School (FMS) and Phippsburg Elementary School (PES).
Copeland was a stay-at-home parent before she decided to start teaching; a role that helped prepare her for the new endeavor.
“I did not understand how challenging a job it would be until I started, but I loved it,” she said. “I loved the kids, understood the kids, and had a supervisor with a doctorate in gifted and talented education who got me started and confirmed what I already knew from my own children.”
A long time Odyssey of the Mind (OM) coach who took six teams to the Odyssey World Finals, Copeland will also be stepping down from her position as the State Association Co-Director as she enters retirement. Alongside her contributions to OM, she can also be credited with helping several elementary schools resurrect their 5th grade math teams, starting the schoolwide National Geographic Geo Bee at FMS, and organizing the 4th and 5th grade special education Scripps Spelling Bee at FMS.
“Elise has an immense heart and an insatiable creative spirit,” said Ross Berkowitz, Principal at FMS. “Her ability to find new ways to reach and enrich our students was phenomenal. She is going to be missed.”
Copeland won’t be stepping back from education entirely – she has a granddaughter entering 2nd grade and would like to return to the classroom as a volunteer. Looking back on her time in the school system she said that her life was enriched every day, and that she “loved every minute of it.”
Susan Cyr has spent 34 years teaching music, Pre-K through grade 6, in RSU 1 (and 5 years before that teaching in Winslow). She received her master's degree in Music Education from The University of Southern Maine and holds first and second levels of certification in Orff and Kodaly methods of music teaching.
“Teaching music has been a joy!” said Cyr. “It's a creative profession in which I got to share my passion for music with wonderful children every day. There is nothing more beautiful than the singing of children, in my opinion. One student said it well in saying: ‘Talking is nice, but singing is sweeter!’ "
Cyr’s retirement plans include a wealth of artistic pursuits from photography to travel, music composition to contra-dance. Jennifer McKay, principal of Dike-Newell School, said that Cyr’s passion for music and understanding of the relationship between music and childhood development and learning will be missed.
“It has been a wonderful experience to be able to see, and more importantly, listen to the students as they have moved through elementary music with Susan Cyr,” said McKay. “She has touched so many lives through her teaching career. As we always do at the end of our music concerts, I echo what our students exclaim: ‘We love music!’ ”
Cyr extended her thanks to parents and colleagues for their role in giving children the chance to study music with her over the years.
“I have always had great faith that children are so very smart, that music can bring them so much happiness, and that all they need is the chance to learn,” she said.
David Ingmundson’s 40 years of service to Morse High School (MHS) has spanned several different roles including social studies teacher, tech coordinator (Ingmundson helped install the first Internet connections at MHS and developed the school’s “mac lab”), video production teacher, and, most recently, English and graphic design teacher.
“There is one teacher at Morse who is a senior to us all; we are losing one of our pillars this year; Mr. Ingmundson, or ‘Iggy’ to generations of Morse students, is a teacher of teachers,” said MHS Principal Eric Varney. “Technology and literacy have always been a focus of Mr. Ingmundson and through the years he has been given the freedom to develop innovative programs across 4 decades. He continues to teach us how to innovate and expand our instruction. Iggy’s smart, funny, interesting, curious, creative, and calm presence has been a steady asset to our school for over 40 years.”
Ingmundson said his introduction to teaching was as a camp counselor and swim teacher in Maine. “I think I still apply a lot of things I learned as a counselor to my teaching. There is a lot of fear involved (when it comes to learning something new). Like swimming: there’s a fear of sinking to the bottom. But there is also an immense sense of gratification when you master something. I think the same thing applies to reading.”
When asked about the proudest moments of his career, Ingmundson recalled receiving the Intellectual Freedom Award from the Maine Library Association in 1989 (author Stephen King was the first recipient the year before) and the Dr. Patricia Ames Distinguished Teacher Award from his colleagues at MHS. He also spoke about the intangible rewards of teaching:
“There is a special feeling that comes after 15 years or so of teaching,” he said. “You start meeting former students in the town that you taught, now adult community members, and it makes you realize how much impact a teacher can have.”
Ingmundson said his proudest moment was receiving an email from a man he taught many years ago who reached out to thank him for believing in him when no one else did.
“You were the only, and I mean only teacher who supported my decision to go to NYU and study television writing,” the former student wrote. “Now it's almost 40 years later, and I have a long and successful career doing exactly the thing I set out to do as a senior in high school.
“So, thank you. I'm sure . . . you've touched the lives of dozens more students like me, and the world is a better place because of you.”
Ingmundson would like to thank his family, especially his wife Kathy, for their ongoing support.