Retiring Teachers Q&A

May 4, 2018

Dr. June Bourque

Art by Celia Bergman

10 years of teaching at KHS

TKC: What are your retirement plans?

Bourque: The plan at the moment is to leave the U.S. and find some tropical area. I’m presently looking at Belize, but I’m not going to rule out Costa Rica or Panama. Something of that nature. As long as I can actively [live abroad], I will, so [I plan to] travel a lot. I may end up living in a different place every year for all I know.

TKC: Why are you moving away?

Bourque: [I want to do this] in a way to get away from it all. I just feel like I’ve worked really hard for many years and it has sort of consumed my life. I want to go away where I don’t even think about to-do lists or have any connections to work. I just want to do what I want to do and travel and see the rest of the world that I never got to see while I’m still alive and kicking.

TKC: Will you do anything with biology in retirement?

Bourque: For the time being, probably not. I don’t think I want to teach anymore. I’m just exhausted and children and students have changed so much, as have I and I’d rather just leave that behind. As far as going back into research, I’m really out of that. Maybe doing some volunteer work down the road, but right after [retirement], no. I just want to leave it alone for a while.

TKC: What is your favorite memory at KHS?

Bourque: One of my favorite memories is having early morning [review] for my AP classes. We would have early morning classes before school started [during the school year]. We would start about 6:40 or 6:45 and that time was just really special, because there was no one else at school except for the AP Chem and AP physics students. It was a really bonding time, and one year I had a particularly fun bunch of girls. I would play Christmas music, and they started singing and dancing to Christmas music. It went on and on for a long time and it was very fun and a nice memory to have. TKC: What will you miss the most about KHS?

Bourque: Just the students. I still keep in touch with students from the very first year I was here. Hoping that you have an impact on kids, but actually to have them keep coming back and visit and keeping in touch and everything, you kind of miss that. I’ll miss that. I’ll miss them and treating them as my children. I’ll miss that for sure.

TKC: What are you most excited for in retirement?

Bourque: Sleep! Not having to get up and always be so responsible for so many things. When you teach, you’re responsible for bringing these kids from point A to point B, and particularly AP students and getting them to pass the AP test. After a while, it’s a burden to carry, so just feeling free of a lot of responsibilities and being able to have my own thoughts.

TKC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Bourque: This is the first job I’ve ever had where I felt like I could just be me. I didn’t have to be somebody else to have this job. I could just be me and I was accepted as such. Kirkwood, the whole school to me, is family. The first year I was here, my son passed away and everybody came together so much for me. I will never forget that as long as I live. That was a big deal for me. I don’t think I would have survived had I been at any other school, because the support I got here was just unbelievable. Someone would come over and take my classes if there was something going on or if some other kid passed away. People would come and rally around. My students were just incredible. I could not have survived had I not been here.

Mrs. Nancy Grimes

Art by Celia Bergman

27 years of teaching at KHS

TKC: What makes KHS unique compared to other schools?

Grimes: So many things. Sometimes I think that the teachers who haven’t taught at any other school, they don’t know how good they have it at KHS. When I taught at another school, I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have any guidance and when I got to Kirkwood, I had a mentor, I had guidance, I got to choose some of the things that I wanted to teach in art. Kirkwood paid for half of my master’s program that I started just before I came to Kirkwood and then I completed that. That’s just a little bit of the teacher benefits that they have. For the students, this is a beautiful campus that is kept so nice and clean and safe. A lot of things make Kirkwood a great place.

TKC: What is your favorite class to teach?

Grimes: I love sculpture, I love AP art, I love drawing. The lucky thing for me is that I’m just a little bit ADD, so I enjoy the change that I have during a typical day going from one class to another. I started AP art around 2008 and I’ve developed that, so that’s been kind of special to me.

TKC: What is your favorite memory at KHS?

Grimes: Anytime a big campus sculpture has gone up, I’ve just been so thrilled. When the first one went up, “The Reader,” that’s by journalism [room], was presented to the campus, I was thrilled because that was the first [sculpture]. When “The Pioneer” in the Commons was set up, it took the girls a whole year during class, after school [to complete]. When that was finished, I was thrilled. Then finally, we got to move outdoors for sculptures and work with the Engineering department and those were pretty thrilling moments too.

TKC: What will you miss the most about KHS?

Grimes: I’ll miss the kids. I’ll miss lunch with my faculty friends because you eat lunch every day with people who are funny but have like-minded interests. It’s a unique situation.

TKC: What are your plans for retirement?

Grimes: I plan to paint and work on my own art a lot because I’ve just never had the time to pursue my own art and I want to do that. The Walker family, that has been so supportive of the arts and the sculpture program, Dr. Walker is opening an art gallery in Austin, Texas and I’ve sent five paintings to her, so I’m going to see how that goes. I just hope to make art and get it out there.

TKC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Grimes: This whole retirement bid is bittersweet for me because people say, “Congratulations” and I say, “Oh, what for?” I just love my job. I love art, I love kids, it’s been a perfect job so it’s very bittersweet. I hope I’m doing the right thing. We’ll see.

Mr. John Mackin

Art by Celia Bergman

21 years of teaching at KHS

TKC: What are your retirement plans?

Mackin: I’m a jazz saxophone player so I’m going to spend a little more time with that. Plus, I teach aerospace engineering and there’s a company that I’ve worked with that does flight simulation and I might work with them some too.

TKC: What is your favorite memory at KHS?

Mackin: I worked for 16 years in corporate doing product development before I became a teacher. From the day I got here, the thing that has always struck me is that when you walk down the hall, even as a new person that has never been here, everyone smiles and they’re just supportive. The corporate world, people are just doing their job. Here, the environment is so different than there.

TKC: Have you worked in other districts?

Mackin: Just this one. I subbed at a few [districts], but my certification before I got my full-time job here, but it has been 21 years here, so a whole career.

TKC: What will you miss the most about KHS?

Mackin: I’ll probably miss the variety of students, because there are so many different personalities. It’s kind of fun getting to know the students over the course of the year and interacting with them.

TKC: What are you most excited for in retirement?

Mackin: Not living by 45 minutes and six minutes all throughout the day. And then also relearning how to eat lunch in over 12 or 13 minutes. It seems like as a teacher, you run and you eat and then back to work again.

TKC: What has been your favorite class to teach?

Mackin: I taught chemistry for almost 15 years before I taught anything else and then I had the opportunity to teach Aerospace [Engineering], because I’ve always liked space stuff. I grew up with the moon landing and all that kind of stuff. They both have been fun, but it was nice to do something different after doing the same class for so many years.

TKC: Do you live in Kirkwood?

Mackin: I live in Belleville, IL so it’s a 35 minute drive each way, all interstate, so it’s not really bad. Before I was a teacher, I worked in Afton at a candy company that made Sweet Tarts and other candies. I’ve always kind of driven that far. It’s going to be really weird to live within a four or five mile radius from my house as opposed to driving to St. Louis every day.

TKC: Do you feel like there is a strong sense of community in Kirkwood?

Mackin: Yeah, there really is. It’s a neat community. People really are supportive and interactive and they get behind causes. You go downtown and there’s lot of nice houses and shops to hangout at.

TKC: Will you return to Kirkwood after retirement?

Mackin: Probably not at first. I don’t know, I kind of want to wait and see where life takes me after I retire. I’ll wait and see what happens.

TKC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Mackin: I want to say teaching is the hardest job I ever. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done, but the rewards are great. It’s really a good feeling to know that you’ve helped students and helped them grow and develop. The other side of that though it that most teachers never know [what happens to students]. Unless somebody comes back and says ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing,’ you don’t know what happens to most of your students. You just hope that you set them on a good path and help them get to where they want to be.

TKC: How did you decide that you wanted to become a teacher?

Mackin: I looked at teaching early when I was in college and I really can’t remember why I got my degree and went out and got a job in business. I did that for 16 years, but I found that over the course of that time I was training people and the employees worked for me and I thought maybe I should look at [teaching] again and do something more to kind of give back. I’d created a number of products that were in the marketplace, some of them are still out there, so that’s kind of cool. I worked on some other candies and granola bars and fruit bars and stuff like that, but I thought I could do more. I took a year off and went back to school to finish my student teaching and all of the courses that I needed to do. That was kind of weird–– taking a year off when I was in my thirties. I’d already been working 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. every day for a decade and now all of a sudden, I’m back in school. I was on campus in the afternoon and other people were working, it was really different.

Mr. Greg Booth

Art by Celia Bergman
25 years of teaching at KHS

TKC: What are your plans for retirement?

Booth: I am going to buy a building and put in a studio and go be an artist.

TKC: What is your favorite memory at KHS?

Booth: I’ve really liked teaching. That’s been very nice, to have a career that you enjoy and I’ve loved working with the plays. It’s been a great career and there have been so many good memories. I don’t know if I can pull my favorite one.

TKC: What will you miss the most about KHS?

Booth: I’ll miss being in the classroom and teaching because I do enjoy it. I will not miss grading and paperwork and administration things that we have to do and all the other hoops we have to jump through.

TKC: What are you most excited for in retirement?

Booth: My dream in high school, I went to art school, was to go be a working artist and it’s a very hard way to make a living. So, now I get to go do it. I get to go be a working artist, so I’m fulfilling a dream I had at 18 It’s kind of cool.

TKC: How long will you work as an artist?

Booth: Until I can’t.

TKC: Have you been doing art outside of teaching?

Booth: Oh yeah. I had a show in March, my first solo show. That was very successful. I’ve had pieces in group shows and making sets [for KHS plays] is art and I’ve done that for [many] years.

TKC: Have you worked at other schools?

Booth: I’ve worked at other schools as a set designer, but I have not taught at other schools.

TKC: What makes KHS unique compared to other schools?

Booth: Well, I think the tradition of Turkey Day is probably as unique as you get. Every school has their tradition, but that one is unique to Kirkwood. I went to SLUH and [our tradition] was the SLUH v. CBC game, but it wasn’t quite what Turkey Day is.

TKC: What has been your favorite KHS production?

Booth: I have couple [favorite shows], “House of Blue Leaves”, “The Arsonist”, “A Streetcar Named Desire” and when we did “Hamilton.” Those are probably my top shows.

TKC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Booth: Thank you. This has been a great career for me and I thank Kirkwood.

Mr. Jeff Melsha

Art by Celia Bergman

15 years of teaching at KHS

TKC: What are your retirement plans?

Melsha: Nothing definite right now*, but I’ll definitely work somewhere in the music industry. I have some thoughts and ideas and I’ve been talking to some places, but I don’t have any places that I’m going to go to rush to right after school’s out in May. I’m not going to just fish and sit in a recliner for the rest of my life.

TKC: What is your favorite memory at KHS?

Melsha: Pep rallies. Pep rallies are really neat, [because] the entire school, community and parents come together, especially the Turkey Day one with the Chili Bowl. There’s just a lot of excitement to be here at school and do things. The band is usually a big part of that and they like to play. I think that’s probably my favorite memory.

TKC: What will you miss the most about KHS?

Melsha: Being around 200 kids every day. You know, they make me young, or feel young anyway. [They have] lots of energy and excitement. I’ll have to somehow replace that daily dose of youth with something that will keep making me happy.

TKC: What are you most excited for in retirement?

Melsha: I don’t have anything I’m excited about, I just think it’s time. While I’m telling seniors every day that this is the last stepping stone and they’re going to walk out of these doors and get a new life, I’m looking at the same thing now. I guess I’m excited, while there’s no specific plan, just starting a new journey.

TKC: What makes KHS unique compared to other schools you have worked at?

Melsha: I think that there is a higher expectation for success from the community. If at a football game or a pep rally, the band wasn’t there or didn’t play well, I think you’d find out or hear about it pretty quickly. In other places, it’s not that community type of event like it is in Kirkwood. Everybody has a high expectation of what should happen and what should go on. I think that’s the unique thing that I’ve noticed about Kirkwood.

TKC: Has the Kirkwood community been supportive of the band program?

Melsha: Oh yeah. Absolutely and the band parent group is amazing. They work hard and raise funds to meet the needs of the kids as far as the fiscal part goes. Absolutely, 100 percent.


* After the interview, Melsha decided to take a job working with Palen Music Center beginning July 1 as an Education Representative and Consultant for the eastern Missouri and western Illinois region. He will go to different high schools in this region and provide their marching bands with advice for improvement.

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