Maguire learns much during 39-year teaching career

By Tanya Mitchell | Jun 08, 2012
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell Bonnie Maguire plans to retire at the end of this school year following 39 years of service, much of which she spent at the Gladys Weymouth School in Morrill.

Morrill — For most of her 39-year career in education, Bonnie Maguire has worked at the Gladys Weymouth School.

Looking back on those years as she prepares to move into retirement, Maguire said she wouldn't change a thing about the time she's spent educating the children of the Morrill area.

During a recent interview with The Journal, Maguire said she would miss her regular contact with the school community the most.

"Truthfully, it's the community, the parents, and of course, the students," said Maguire, who has most recently served as a Title I literacy teacher at the Weymouth School. "And the colleagues that I've worked with here as well. It's always been about the students, and what's best for them."

Maguire has also worked for short stints at the Ames School in Searsmont, the former Peirce School in Belfast and in the former K-1 elementary school that used to serve Belmont children, but she has spent all of her career in SAD 34 and continued her work after the district consolidated with SAD 56 to form RSU 20 a few years ago.

"I started in this school in 1973," said Maguire, noting that her first teaching job was in a third-grade classroom.

Maguire also taught a combination class that included third- and fourth-graders, as well as kindergarten, and over the years she's had the chance to teach the children of some of her original students.

"And a few grandchildren," she said.

Maguire said it's been fun to see generations of local families in her classrooms, and to note the similarities between the children and their parents (or grandparents).

Sometimes, Maguire's former students and their families will reconnect with her, which she said is always a pleasant surprise. One young man, who was working at The Belfast Co-op, thanked her for teaching him how to read when she was at the store one day picking up a few groceries.

Other encounters with former students grow into educational opportunities for her current students. Such was the case when Maguire received word from former Journal publisher Jim Streit, whose son Tyler was in Maguire's kindergarten class in the early 1990s. Tyler, now 27, has grown up to become a pilot in the Air Force who graduated at the top of his class at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado in 2007.

In an email sent to the Weymouth School in April, Jim Streit explained that Tyler Streit is serving in Afghanistan, and the letters of encouragement that flooded the young pilot during the beginning of his deployment had become less frequent. That, explained Jim Streit, was why he and his wife, Linda, decided to contact Maguire.

"As a parent, I can do little," stated Jim Streit's email. "But Linda and I are trying to contact important persons in [Tyler's] development and past, asking them to send him some remembrances of their time with him and words of appreciation and encouragement."

Maguire not only responded to the Streit family's request, but has since set up regular communication between herself, Tyler Streit and all the students at Weymouth.

"Since we've been back in touch, we've done a school project where each class writes [to Tyler] once a week," she said.

For each class correspondence, teachers will ask their students what they want to know about Tyler, and also about what they wish to tell him.

"That kind of capped off the year in a good way," said Maguire.

Maguire said she was especially pleased to know that Tyler's family feels his personality is still very similar to that of the little boy who spent a year at the small town elementary school.

"He was only here for that one year," said Maguire. "But the town and the school made a big impression on the family."

These days, Maguire said, she's had the pleasure of watching her own grandchildren begin their educations at the Morrill elementary school.

When asked about some of the more important lessons she has learned from her students over the years, Maguire said, "Patience."

"And to expect the unexpected," she added.

Listening is also an important skill, said Maguire, because "some behaviors are there for a reason."

Maintaining high expectations for all students is a necessary component to delivering the best education possible to each child, Maguire said, as long as the expectations are realistic.

"They're all different, they're all unique, and they all learn differently," she said.

When Maguire retires at the end of this school year, she said she'll likely do some reading and knitting, and she's also looking forward to visiting her niece in Alabama, where she plans to attend a football game.

Eventually, Maguire said, she'd like to do some volunteering in the community. But not before enjoying a little time off.

"No one is to ask me for a year," she said with a grin.

There will be an open house to celebrate Maguire's teaching career at the Weymouth School Monday, June 11, from 4-6 p.m. All are invited, and light refreshments will be served.

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