After 89 years of combined service educating Wetumpka’s youth, three teachers retired at the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year.
Wetumpka Elementary School teacher Tanya Hibbard and Wetumpka Middle School teachers Beth Roberts and Joiann C. Selmar all agreed they picked a career they truly enjoyed.
Hibbard spent 35 years of her 38-year career as a kindergarten teacher.
She said the key to longevity in any career is to love what you do.
“I never had a day where I thought I could not do this anymore,” Hibbard said. “I just made the most of every day and the time I had with the children. Especially this year, we learned to value every day.”
Hibbard said children have not changed much in the past three decades.
“Their love of learning has not changed,” she said. “Kids still love to come to school.”
Hibbard said the biggest change she has seen in education is the integration of technology.
“We live in this world of technology where everything is computer,” she said. “I think the way we teach has changed as far as over the years with the technology.
I think the kids are more advanced because of technology. They learn faster. It used to be slow and easy. Now, not so much.”
Her years of teaching at the same school have given her the experience of teaching the children of previous students.
“I had a child this year where I taught her sister, her mother and her mother’s sister,” Hibbard said. “I’ve taught several sibling groups and a couple of children of parents I had taught.”
Although Hibbard’s retirement from Elmore County Schools is official, she said she expects to be back on campus soon.
“In the fall, I am going to do maternity leave for a teacher,” she said.
Roberts retired after 27 years of teaching in Elmore County.
Her last role, from 2011 to 2020, was as a gifted and talented education (GATE) teacher for the middle school.
She said working with the gifted curriculum was an enjoyable experience.
“One of the things I liked was turning things into a game,” she said. “It made it fun and they were learning but it helps make the lessons stick with them.
With the gifted curriculum, you get to do some creative and fun things. We took trips to Camp McDowell and Dauphin Island. Those sorts of things are a lot of fun.”
Roberts said the schools in Wetumpka have several outstanding qualities she found valuable as a teacher and a parent of two children who went to schools in Wetumpka.
“For one, you have some highly qualified teachers in the county,” she said. “Also, most families are very involved. There is a lot of organization. I can think of the things my kids did in school. There is just a lot of parent involvement.”
Roberts already started another job that allows her to improve her green thumb.
“I got really interested in the past 10 years in gardening,” she said. “In Jemison, there is a nursery and garden center. I work up there three days a week now. That’s my retirement job and I can buy what I want to buy and plant it in my yard.”
Selmar, a 24-year special education veteran, said she considers the middle school’s students as family.
“The children are great,” she said. “I claim all of them as my nieces and nephews.”
Selmar said she is going to miss the bonds she had with her students in the collaborative program.
“As I’ve always been taught, a teacher is more than a teacher,” she said. “A teacher is also a part-time parent and counselor. So, I am going to miss all of that. I try to make sure the children I taught knew that and that they were loved and cared for.”
Selmar also chaired the middle school’s special education department and said it takes a teacher with a unique compassion to connect with special needs children.
“All children can learn and I also know that, in my field, children come with different degrees of learning,” she said. “Because of that I am going use the opportunity to help the kids. Not all teachers have the compassion of special education.”
Selmar has plans for after retirement.
“I am going to volunteer if I am in town with the public school system (in Wetumpka),” she said. “I have had the opportunity to go to Japan, Italy and Switzerland so I plan on traveling.”