RETIRING TEACHER: Alice Mannix working to the last minute

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.

A visitor enters Alice Mannix’s classroom to chat.

“You’ll have to give me just a minute,” she says.

With just days left in the school year — and her career — she was working on scholarship and recommendation letters, as so many students have asked her to do during her 30 years at Brown County High School.

Mannix is in charge of recommending BCHS students for the Indiana University Groups Scholars Program, which provides support and guidance to help them be successful in college.

She hasn’t had much time to think about retirement. This semester, the Spanish and English teacher has been teaching two college courses along with three high school classes.

“I have very mixed emotions about retiring. I know it’s my time to go, but I don’t really see myself not teaching, not working,” she said.

Mannix has great memories of watching ninth- and 10th-graders mature before her eyes with the help of literature.

While the younger students are concerned with social cliques, she enjoys presenting them with works like “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Lord of the Flies” — and watch as they had “a-ha” moments, discovering “what society is and what the world has for better or for worse for them,” she said.

“I can see them becoming more understanding of their ability to have an impact in their own lives — that they can become mature enough to make decisions that will propel them forward, and that they can make good decisions so they can make choices, rather than have to settle.”

Those moments occurred, too, in her upper-level English classes, when students read “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Death of a Salesman.”

They also come to her Spanish students when discussing the Dirty War in Argentina or while reading “Lazarillo de Tormes.”

“I think that when kids come up against certain philosophies and certain realities of the dangers in society, and the kind of decisions that either help or destroy life, then they actually step up and start realizing that they need to grow in maturity,” she said.

Skits and presentations in her English and Spanish classes top her favorite memories.

Many students might not know that she also spent 35 years teaching and/or training in performing arts, including ballet in New York, Oregon and Bloomington; folk dance in Oregon; and ice skating and dancing in Indianapolis. One year, she also taught a ballet class at BCHS.

She has no big plans for her retirement. She may start writing again. “Just waiting to see what shall unfold,” she said.

Her advice to new teachers? Enjoy your work and your students. Challenge them without relying too much on technology.

“If they are intending to be impactful, they need to put themselves aside and fully commit to taking the necessary steps and building curriculum, coursework, methodology that requires students to struggle in order to excel,” she said.

“I think there’s a tremendous reliance on technology. I don’t think that technology can reap the human spirit. I think that it’s a real misconception to value technology and technique over the human spirit.”