Seniors officially will say goodbye to their high school careers during Seymour High School’s graduation Sunday.

But they aren’t the only ones leaving as several teachers and staff members of Seymour Community School Corp. also won’t be returning in the fall.

In all, 11 people, including four classroom teachers, retired this school year, giving a combined 321 years of service to students and their families.

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They were honored May 26 with a special retirement dinner at The Pines Evergreen Room. Each received traditional retirement clocks.

“We appreciate everything you’ve done. I know you’ve taken time away from your families,” said school board president Art Juergens. “Believe it or not, you’ve touched many children’s lives. You might go day by day and not realize what you do but you affect everyone, anyone who works for our system, no matter what your job is.”

Retirees this year include Dietra Bean and Chata Toppe from Margaret R. Brown Elementary School; Delbert Rust and Sandy Waskom, from the transportation department; Bonnie Burbrink as food services director; Susie Graves from the Sixth Grade Center; Betty Gregory from Seymour-Jackson Elementary School; Jill Durham and Dereva Ernest from Seymour-Redding Elementary and Sue Blythe and Mary Beth Gibson from SHS.

Gibson recorded the most years of service among teachers, spending 40 years as an educator.

She started as “an itinerant” teacher traveling to the different elementary schools in the corporation to work with special needs students.

“I worked with kids who had learning disabilities and emotional handicaps,” she said.

She decided to pursue a career in special education after being in a club in high school that exposed her to children with disabilities.

“We did a lot of things with Special Olympics and handicapped students, and I really enjoyed that,” she said.

She graduated from Indiana State University with her teaching degree in special education, but didn’t realize then that it would become her career and passion for the next 40 years.

“I still love it,” she said.

Retirement is not so much about her age, but about keeping education current, she said.

“I think it’s time. The 40 years bothers me more than my age does,” she said. “People think when they get a certain age they have to retire.”

Gibson said it was a decision she made not for herself but for students.

“I was thinking the kids need something new and fresh, although I tried to do that,” she said.

Never flying solo, Gibson was known at Seymour for having a team of classroom assistants and other teachers and administrators to help her carry out the day.

“I think I will miss the people I work with the most,” she said. “We are very supportive of each other and we help each other out when we’re down.”

Her ability to work well with others also benefited her students over the years.

“When we didn’t know what to do for a student, we could brainstorm and work together to try to come up with the best plan we could,” she said.

In retirement, her biggest goal is to spend as much time as she can with her family, including her husband, Glaze; daughters, Adrianne (Elvis) Hernandez and Amy Gibson; Andrew (Nadine) Gibson; and grandson, Henry Hernandez.

Principal Greg Prange said he has known Gibson since he was 15 years old.

“One thing I appreciate about her is that no matter what, I can always count on Mary Beth to have a smile and a kind word and even when I’m in my grumpiest moment, there she is,” Prange said. “I’ve always appreciated her sense of humor, and I consider her a very good friend.”

Special education director Mika Ahlbrand said Gibson’s 40 years of service can’t be replaced.

“Mary Beth is a very positive person and I’m going to miss her tremendously on our team,” Ahlbrand said. “She is leaving a big hole in our special education team not only at the high school but through the district.”

Referring to Gibson as a “great advocate,” Ahlbrand said many students were able to graduate because they had Gibson as a teacher.

For all new teachers, Gibson had advice for having a successful career.

“If it’s your passion to be an educator, don’t let anything get in your way,” she said. “Continue to pursue that career and give it all you got. You don’t get into it for the money, you go into it because you love kids and want to make a difference.”

At a glance

Retirees and their years of service

Brown Elementary

Dietra Bean – 37 years as a teacher

Chata Toppe – 35 years as a teacher

Transportation

Delbert Rust – 13 years as a bus driver

Sandy Waskom – 38 years as a bus driver

Corporation

Bonnie Burbrink – 21.5 years as food service director

Sixth Grade Center

Susie Graves – 20 years as kitchen manager

Jackson Elementary

Betty Gregory – 36 years as kitchen staff

Redding Elementary

Jill Durham – 22 years as a teacher

Dereva Ernest – 15 years as an instructional assistant

Seymour High School

Sue Blythe – 43 years as athletic department administrative assistant

Mary Beth Gibson – 40 years as a special education teacher

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.