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Retiring Chamberlin honored for 37-year career
Last Wednesday morning, (from left) State Sen. John Patrick, Rep. Matt Peterson and Rep. Sheryl Briggs surprised retiring Rumford Elementary School Principal
Anne Chamberlin by presenting her with a Legislative Sentiment honoring her for her 37-year career in public education, all of it in the Rumford/Mexico area,
including the last 21 years as RES principal.
RUMFORD -- Last Wednesday, on the next to last day of a 37-year career in public education, all of it in the Rumford/Mexico area, Anne Chamberlin was continuing to clean out her office as she was conducting her duties as Rumford Elementary School principal.
"It's a good thing I started cleaning when I did or I'd still be here when school started next year. I've been in this office for 21 years. A lot of stuff. You know, you can pack a lot of stuff into like a small office space.
Among the items are a lot of pictures over the years. "You see kids who have kids now. A lot of memoires. Looking back at a lot of staff members who have been here, different events that we've done. Looking at different hair styles! Different hair colors!"
For a little bit, at least, traffic stopped flowing in Chamberlin's office as she closed her door. This gave her an opportunity for reflection.
"I do know whenever you move on to something new, it means that you have to leave something behind. In this case, I'm leaving something I really love. It's like, whew, how I do leave that group because they are such a supportive group and I admire them," she began.
"But I have this group over here -- my four little grandchildren. And I'm lucky in another way in that I have an awesome family. I look forward to spending more time with them; I think they're already planning some things, too; my children," said Chamberlin.
Chamberlin had been principal at RES for 21 years. She began her educational career as a seventh-grade teacher at the former Mexico Junior High School. Over the years, until 1991, she was a Title I teacher and program director, and assistant principal at both Rumford Elementary School and Meroby Elementary School, as well as at the former Virginia Elementary School.
"I remember when I got this job, one of the board members said, 'Be careful what you wish for.' But it worked out well. I can't imagine a better job for me. I just liked working here, even with all the challenges. It's not an easy job," she said.
"Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time. This school was the right place for me. No one person does it alone, so this staff has just been awesome. I think we work well together. I can't imagine that there's another staff that works harder for the students," said Chamberlin.
"There are a lot of hidden things that people don't know about here. They (the staff) do Christmas gifts for a family they know that's having a particularly hard time. One of my teachers does a mathathon for St. Jude's every year, which takes a certain amount of time. But the rest of the year, she just collects the bottles that the kids leave behind in her classroom, and saves the money to turn into St. Jude's. So that's a great modling thing for kids to see, to give to others.
It's more than just the kids when they're here during the school day. They worry about them," she noted.
Chamberlin also thanked the parents and grandparents who volunteer and the support from local agencies like the police and fire departments.
"This area is where my roots are. Other people grow by going to different areas. I always felt I kept growing with the staff here. Certainly in education, there is no lack of change. You either go with that or you get left behind. So you keep growing," said Chamberlin.
She said she is also looking forward to two other things. "I'm looking forward to not working in July, which I haven't done in a long time. And I'm looking forward to enjoying the fall in a different way. I love the fall, but it starts to get dark earlier in the fall and a lot of the times, I'm going home and it's dark, so I don't see it."
Chamberlin acknowledged that she hadn't been sick, she doesn't believe she would be retiring.
"But it was a very scary time for us and it does make you think. How do I...who knows what's in the future, so you have be sure that you take time to smell the roses."
"I feel like I could principal for a long time still, but I've got two grandchildren who start school this year, and I think about the things we do that grandparents come to and I want to be able to do that. And then, in three years, I have two more that start. And I do want to be able to help them out," she said, adding, "I'm told that I'll be busier than I ever was. I've also been told that if you've worked in a school system for this long, you will always be on a school year type of calendar."
Chamberlin said, "This building has had a huge interest in literacy over the years, which has been a big interest of mine, so that kind of kept things fresh for me as an individual. When you've been in a position for a long time, after awhile you do become an historian, just because you've been there longer than everybody else. You can kind of see how we got from here to there. What were some of the things that took place."
"You can't throw out everything when you try something new. I can only talk about this building because that's where I've spent most of my time. But in order for change to be successful, you kind of work at it. You don't go from alright, we're doing this all this way and then no, we don't like that at all. Because with whatever you do, therre's going to be some good somewhere. Some things that you like; some things you think are successful," she said.
"But truly, the change over 21 years has been huge. We, as the building, the staff here, have learned a lot more about how children learn and that is an ever; there more and more information out there all the time about children and their learning stylers and help them to learn at even at a very young age. The kindergarten curriculum is very different than what it used to be," said Chamberlin.
"Honestly, If I could do one thing, I would encourage families to not put TVs in kids' bedrooms until they're on their own. I'm not anti-TV, but there are fewer and fewer children who come to school who are what we call thousand book kids. They've been exposed to a thousand books before they get to school. And those kids have a leg up on kids who may have a thousand shows under their belt," she said.
"Before children get to school, what is so valuable about books is that it leads to interactive conversation with children, so they pick up the language, the flow of the language, and then they're watching TV or on video games. That's one way. They're receiving it, but they're not expressing it. That's what we see in school is missing for a lot of kids. So we have to move in a different direction for those kids to build those skills," said Chamberlin.
She has also been busy preparing for the incoming principal, Chris Decker, who had been the assistant principal at Mountain Valley High School. "I'm getting this big notebook ready in kind of a calendar because we've planned some things for next year."
In doing so, Chamberlin noted, "Holy smokes. I can't imagine starting again!"
"It'll be a learning curve, but a fun learning curve. He'll have a lot of support here," she said.
Chamberlin does have some advice for Decker.
"Enjoy it. The job is hard and it's long, and enjoyable, and fun. I don't go a day without getting a hug. I've always said this is an elementary school and kids hug.
Sometimes you have to have boundaries around certain kids and that's fine. And they send you notes. Just enjoy that part of it," she said.
"The other part is that I hope he has good time management skills. Those first years, you don't know what you absolutely have to get done before you go home and what is going to be okay if you leave it until tomorrow. And the other thing is to rely on the staff. They feel comfortable with him because he filled in a bit when I was out in the fall. He'll do fine," noted Chamberlin, adding, "They have to know how much you care before they care about how much you know."
Another hurdle will be the first day of school next year. "I'm going to find somebody who is doing something that day that I can be involved in. Because this past year, I'd been sick so I wasn't able to start the school year, and it was difficult because I could picture the buses coming and I always meet the buses on the first few days of school. It's hard to give it over to somebody else 'cause in my heart, this is my building," she said.
Chamberlin lives in the house in Canton where her aunt lived. The aunt's perennial gardens are in a bit of a disarray, so "I'm going to try to reclaim those and if I do reclaim those, it will take a lot of time. That will keep me busy for awhile. And this summer, we'll spend a lot of time at the lake."
Her husband, Art, is going to do one more year at Dirigo High School, where he has worked the past three half-time. "He's looking forward to another season for coaching girls' soccer there."
What will become of all this "stuff" Chamberlin has accumulated over 21 years?
Some of it (comical signs, books) will go to her staff and to Decker, some more to her daughter, who teaches first grade in Orono.
Among the items still in view are some of the props (most fun hats) she has in her office that were used to entertain students. Those will go home with her because she knows they will be entertaining for her grand kids.
"I'm looking forward to see possibilities, even though I don't know what they are right now," noted Chamberlin.