Three Neshobe educators retire

BRANDON — Observing Sue LaRock, Julie Fox and Jean Childers is like watching a sweet, hilarious, feel-good film.
The three woman, who count each other as friends as well as co-workers, have each decided to retire from their jobs at the Neshobe School in Brandon after a combined 68 1/2 years, and it is definitely with mixed feelings.
“We’re leaving stuff we love everyday,” said Childers earnestly. “To me, it doesn’t get any better than the last 20 years.”
“It is with very, very mixed emotions,” LaRock said, adding with her trademark wit, “But I’m old and tired.”
To interview the women  all at once is to hear them finish each other’s sentences, to have the conversation spin off in a bout of uncontrollable laughter, and to truly feel the closeness and camaraderie among them.
Childers has been the school nurse at Neshobe for the last 20 years, LaRock a speech/language assistant and paraeducator for 28 years, and Fox a third- and fourth-grade special educator for just over 20 years.
Each has their reasons for retiring, and each came to the decision with difficulty. To hear them talk about the Neshobe School is to witness true love, for their fellow staff members, for the students, and for the special aura of closeness, friendliness and safety that the school strives to maintain.
“It’s the school,” Fox said. “It’s a very special place.”
“It’s like a family,” LaRock added.
“It’s one big, happy family,” Fox chimed in.
They each said that they would miss their co-workers and the students the most. They said they would miss eating lunch together, and greeting everyone in the morning.
“Everybody works so hard here for the parents and students in this town, to try and make school successful for children,” Childers said. “They’re just really, really good, reliable people.”
So, what won’t they miss?
“Paperwork,” Fox said.
“Head lice,” said Nurse Childers.
“Bus duty at the end of the day,” LaRock said vigorously. “The kids are supposed to stand there and not act up, and even I act up.”
Neshobe Principal Judy Pulsifer poked her head in the door and insisted on adding her two cents.
“These are three women who have done whatever needed to be done for any child,” she said. “They have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of Neshobe students and staff members, and I know my life will never be the same when they are gone.”
Fox is planning to spend much more time with her 10 grandchildren, and she will travel — first a trip to Maine for two weeks on the coast, then a stint with former Neshobe teacher Darla Morton to Georgia and South Carolina, then a trip to Costa Rica next January.
Childers will join her husband, music teacher Gene Childers, who this week is retiring from Middlebury Union Middle School, for a month-long trip to China, Tibet and Mongolia. After that, she said she’s keeping her options open.
“I like to be busy,” Childers said. “I really enjoy working, and I’m interested in too many health-related things.”
She said she may work part-time, and is interested in becoming certified in disaster relief.
LaRock is going on a cruise to Bermuda with her husband, Ron, this week. She said she will also spend time with her grandchildren.
The retirees all agreed that they will be very confused in September when the school year starts up again.
“I think we’re all in denial,”  LaRock said. “We’ll be out there, wandering around in September, not sure what to do with ourselves.”
“Maybe we could just stuff you and put you out front,” Fox offered.
“We’re graduating girls,”  Childers interjected, “But we’re not 22.”
“I’m gonna sleep ’til 6!” LaRock declared.

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