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Cross rounds out 36 years in the classroom

NEW HAVEN — Deb Cross will retire this week after 36 years of teaching and 26 years at Beeman Elementary School. Over her years at the New Haven school — teaching a wide variety of ages from third to sixth grade — officials say she has made a deep impact on the school.
“Deb has had a hand in almost everything that we offer for our students,” said Beeman Principal Steve Flint. “Her commitment to the continuous improvement of our systems has been noteworthy, and the staff has come to rely on her creative problem solving, experience and honest analysis of the situation.”
Since Cross was a young girl, she has been drawn to the teaching world.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I love working with kids and I love making the connection with them. I love being able to shut the door and be silly and explore new ideas.”
The oldest child in a large family in New Jersey, she was accustomed to working with young children. After marrying “a Vermont boy” Mark Cross, she moved up to the Green Mountain State and got her start in education as an aide in a Brownsville four-room schoolhouse. She later moved on to teach in Hinesburg and ended up at Beeman in the fall of 1985.
Throughout her more-than-three decades of teaching Cross has witnessed some big changes in education and some not-so big changes.
“It’s really funny how things come back around,” she laughed. “People think that things are new ideas but they come back with a new name on them … ‘Individualized Instruction’ has now become ‘Differentiated Instruction,’ ‘Vermont State Competencies’ melded into ‘Vermont Standards,’ which will soon become the ‘Common Core.’  There’s always a new buzzword.
“A sad change that I’ve seen is how families have changed and how busy people’s lives have come,” she said, lamenting how families seem to be less sturdy and supportive than they once were.
One positive change she noted, however, is that children’s reading materials have really improved.
“I just notice that my students over the years love to read. It’s amazing how much they like to read,” she said. “I think maybe the children’s book authors have gotten better … 36 years ago there wasn’t as much of that children’s genre on the market for kids.”
Happy to have taught over three decades, Cross admits that she’s ready for a change. So, next year her and her husband will move to the Florida Keys.
“My husband and I are going on an adventure, so that kind of eases the bitter sweetness of retiring,” she said.
And, like a kid facing a long summer vacation she added, “No more homework!”
But that doesn’t mean that Cross won’t miss teaching. She said she’ll miss “the light in a child’s eye when they get it” and “the spontaneous laughter.”
“I’ll miss the unexpected joy, the surprising little things and the laughter that you get from kids and the fulfillment,” she said. “I’ll miss that a lot. And if I really miss it, I’ll sub.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com.

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