With more than 180 years of combined teaching experience in Brown County Schools, six educators are saying goodbye to the school corporation when they retire this week.
In addition to the four featured below, Van Buren Elementary School paraprofessional Julie Eddins will retire after 21 years here, and Brown County High School vocational education teacher Chris Todd will retire after inspiring young men and women interested in building trades for 34 years.
Todd could not be reached for an interview by deadline, but look for a story about the future of the building trades program in an upcoming issue.
Gerry Long plans to spend the first few weeks of retirement reading, listening to music and watching movies.
But what he is most looking forward to is teaching his 6- and 3-year-old granddaughters, Hayden and Hailey, to hit a curveball to the opposite field. “I’ve already taught them you should drive off your back leg when hitting a baseball,” he said.
Long has spent the past 36 years as a social studies teacher at Brown County High School.
“It’s been nonstop this whole time. I’ve never had a time when I didn’t have those kinds of obligations and responsibilities. We still have obligations and responsibilities, but I’ve never had this kind of time,” he said.
“My wife, Wanda, even says when I have a day off, I don’t know how to take a day off. I never sleep in, I still get up early. If I don’t get something done, the whole day has been wasted, so that’ll be different,” he said.
When he wasn’t in the classroom, he was a football coach for years at the high school and, later, a strength coach.
“I learned that they were better students when it came to the weight training,” he said. “Guys come in with this attitude that they know everything when it comes to weights and stuff. Their dad had a 110-pound weight set in the garage, so they think they know it all and you have to break through that,” he said.
“For girls, it was like a privilege to even step foot in the weight room, because they had never had that chance before. I actually liked better working with them than the guys.”
One of the memories Long will take with him is a tough football game he coached as a defensive coordinator. Ken Wendling was the head coach then.
“I remember before the game, we looked at the tapes of our opponent — and we wouldn’t say this to the players — but we were thinking, ‘My God, we’re going to get killed. It’s going to be one of those 49-to-nothing deals,’” Long said of him and Wendling.
The team did lose, but by only one point, and in the last seconds of the game. “It was probably the best they played,” he said.
In the classroom, Long enjoyed starting the We the People program and taking the class to the state competition 10 years in a row. Long led that program until he began teaching Advanced Placement Government.
“It kind of revived everything and kept me going for a while,” he said about We the People. “Having a chance to teach students about the Constitution, that was pretty special.”
He’ll miss his colleagues, too.
But now it’s time for the younger generation of teachers to step up, he said.
“I think the parents of Brown County should be really proud that we have the group of teachers we do have. I pride myself on working pretty hard, but over the years there have been teachers, they knocked me out with how much they put into their efforts and the successes they had. They inspired me. The young teachers now, it’s time for them to do their thing,” he said.
New teachers should be prepared to inspire and motivate apathetic students, he said.
“My advice to a new teacher would be think about how you’re going to deal with and how you’re going to handle that. That’s going to be the biggest frustration,” he said. “Keep trying new things.”