Lake County Retired Teachers Association keeps teachers connected | Lake County | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
Robert L. Fleming, a past president of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, recently gathered a group of former teachers to discuss the formation of the Lake County Retired Teachers Association back in 1966.
The goal was to promote the unity of retired teachers in the county.
“Sometimes when you’ve taught 25 or 30 years and all of a sudden you’re retired, it’s like you still need a connection,” said Virginia Keller, current president of LCRTA who retired from Willoughby-Eastlake Schools after teaching for 35 years.
“Where am I and who am I?” said Keller as she described how she felt after she retired from teaching. “(Fleming) evidently wanted to do something to bring us together in Lake County. If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be here.”
The LCRTA welcomes teachers from Fairport Harbor, Kirtland, Madison, Mentor, Painesville City, Perry, Riverside, Wickliffe and Willoughby-Eastlake school districts.
Being involved in LCRTA keeps people in the education world, said current treasurer Patricia Humphrey
“It helps keep you supportive of our current teachers because boy, have they had a lot to deal with,” she said. “I think most of us think about how difficult it has been for them, and thinking about what it was like when we taught and then adding all of what’s been going on this last year.”
Keller said that among the many groups within LCRTA are a scholarship committee and a committee that involves community participation, where members are asked from time to time for donations.
“These donations go out to the Lake Humane Society, Hope Chest, Project Hope (for the Homeless), Hannah’s Home, Salvation Army, the McKinley Community Outreach and End 68 Hours of Hunger,” Keller said. “I really feel we’re a dynamic group. I like the connection of bringing my past career into the present with the education community because I retired in 2005.”
The scholarship committee awards two or three scholarships each year to high school students who are going to major in education to become a classroom teacher, said committee chairman Tim Niederkorn.
Last year, LCRTA had more than 20 scholarship applicants, he said. This year, there were 16.
“We narrow them down to usually around eight. We interview them and then from there, we select two or sometimes three candidates to award scholarships,” said Niederkorn, who noted last year, two $1,000 scholarships were given out and then a smaller scholarship. “This year, I’m paced to do about the same.”
Alongside Niederkorn is his wife, Sherry, who serves on several LCRTA committees, with most of her involvement being on the social and travel committee. She also does public relations and website work for the association.
“Our (social and travel) group meets five to six times a year, and we plan trips. We work together as a committee and take turns at doing different roles,” Sherry Niederkorn said.
The social and travel committee with LCRTA plans domestic day trips and multi-day trips, as well as international trips to Iceland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand that last for a week or more, she said.
“We’ve got some trips coming up,” Sherry Niederkorn said. “We’re going to go on the Mississippi River boat cruise in September of 2022 and in September of 2023, we’re going to take a cruise to the Great Rivers from Vienna (Austria) to Amsterdam (Netherlands).”
A year ago, the board got together and decided that if LCRTA was going to continue, another outlet for outreach was needed, she said. Thus, a Zoom account was made.
“I took some website seminars and training for Zoom, so that’s how we’ve stayed alive for the past year,” Sherry Niederkorn said. “Then, we braved the world and had our general membership come in and join us too, so I did training sessions for the members to teach them things.
“Thank goodness for that because we’ve been able to continue outreach programs, scholarships and things like that”
She said LCRTA is always interested in gaining new members, whether they are teachers who have retired recently or many years ago.
“Or, if you’re just a friend and want to travel with us, you could be an associate member,” Sherry Niederkorn said, noting that there are currently 160 members, some from Florida and Wisconsin who are devoted to Lake County. Joint meetings have also taken place with the Geauga County Retired Teachers Association, as well as visitor and Ohio RTA invites.
“I like the fact that the organization provides a retired teacher with many different ways to contribute something meaningful,” said Tim Niederkorn, who retired from Willoughby-Eastlake Schools. “Sherry and I are involved in a lot of different things, so I’ve never been the person who wonders what I’m going to do the next morning, but I encounter a lot of retired teachers who are just the opposite.
“They dread, ‘What am I going to do now, now that I’m done teaching,'” he continued. “I think our organization, if you’re willing to step up, provides a lot of different opportunities and venues to do something meaningful.”
Cathy Trepal, who is LCRTA president-elect, said the association has done a lot for her.
“I’m divorced and my son moved out a couple years ago, so I keep busy and this is one of the ways,” Trepal said. “I think it was at my retirement party where people said, ‘You should join this group.’ So, I did. That was nine years ago.”
Trepal enjoys keeping up to date on things in Ohio and helping out the community, as well as being able to travel with the group.
“It’s nice when you go on the trips because now I know more people and we have so much in common because we’ve all, ‘Where did you teach,’ ” Trepal said. “I live in Cuyahoga County, one of the few I think, but I taught in Lake County, so that’s why I belong.”
Much like Trepal, Sherry Niederkorn enjoys keeping busy.
“After you’ve taught for 30 years, what do you do next, which is one of the reasons I substitute teach,” Sherry said. “I’ve been doing that for 12 years, but I’m having a hard time finding days to substitute because I’m so busy.
“But I like bringing people together, reminiscing or catching up, especially during this time. Once a teacher always a teacher.”
Although she did not join LCRTA right away, Keller said she is glad she did because she has connected again to a familiar body, as well as learning new things.
“I was at a loss,” Keller said. “I ate, slept — sad to say who I was was very much vested in my teaching career and then when that ended after 35 years, I was probably one of the few teachers that said ‘I think I made a mistake. I think I retired too early.'”