Legacy Teachers

Legacy Teachers – Pay it forward!

One of the saddest things about U.S. education is that the wisdom of our most successful teachers is lost to the profession when they retire.

—John Dewey

Parker Palmer’s book, On the Brink of Everything (2018), inspired me to think about the wisdom of our retired teachers in a new way. He shares his thoughts in essays titled, The Dance of the Generations and The Music of Mentoring. Parker writes that it is time to release the metaphor of “passing the baton” to the young and instead embrace a more fulfilling model of mentoring where young and old mutually share their talents with the world.

I believe it is time to formally and systematically create post-service opportunities for retired teachers to continue to contribute to the education profession.  Building upon our preservice and in-service models, I suggest we add a “continuing” service phase to our education continuum. This will allow us to capture the success stories, the wisdom, and the joy of teaching from our retired colleagues.

A generational mentoring process will benefit all involved and will also influence the success of not only novice teachers, but their students as well. These volunteer (and sometimes paid) opportunities will also enhance school district offerings and the professional wisdom of our educational organizations. Why do we continually re-invent the wheel, especially when we have so much wisdom at our finger tips.

Ask yourself:

How do you relate to the term Legacy Teacher? Where are you on the education continuum?

How do you honor those teachers who have come before you?

What could you do to pay it forward?

Mary Oliver said in one of her poems titled, The Summer Day, “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” What will you do to support the wisdom of the profession?

Three ways to begin your inquiry are:

1. LISTEN to these two Legacy Teachers I had the privilege of interviewing. Think about ways you could interview those generous, smart, and intuitive retired teachers in your circle.

Gloria Moran – Listen to the interview here.

Maureen Devlin – Listen to the interview here.

2. START a Legacy Teacher Book Club

Read Teaching With Light with some other retired teachers who are still inspired! Use the sample meeting agenda in Appendix B to organize your meeting. Discover ways you can still contribute to the profession by reflecting on what you know. Share this idea with retired teachers!

3. PAY IT FORWARD in your own way.

     One-time activity

  • Share your practical advice with one real beginning teacher by phone.
  • Send a note to a beginning teacher(s) with encouraging ideas.
  • Be a guest speaker (video) at a school or in a teacher education course

     More of a time commitment

  • Create a blog or video to share your good ideas. Collaborate with others.
  • Volunteer in a novice teacher’sclassroom (virtual helper or in person)
  • Teach or co-teach a practical course in teachereducation

     Most time commitment

  • Reach out to your own district and offer to volunteer to be part of sustaining the district’s mentoring program. Collaborate with and mentor up and coming mentor leaders.
  • Organize a group of retirees to support noviceteachers in their classrooms
  • Create a Legacy Program in your school with retirees contributing to committeesand mentoringprograms.
  • Write your own book with your wisdom andstories.
  • Collaborate on teaching research with a higher educationprofessor
  • Serve on a statecommittee for teachers or public policy reviews
  • Join a professional organization and share yourwisdom
  • Serve on a schoolboard.
  • Collaborate with a business to bring scholarships to teachers for inspiredPD
  • Create an awards ceremony to honor the legacy of retiredteachers
  • Or any idea you can think of that would contribute in a positive way

I believe our experienced teachers hold much wisdom and can offer us solid, practical, advice. They are our wisest trees who have blossomed and grown for years. Tree branches reach out and touch the sky and we can see them easily, but it is the roots of the tree that have the most infinite power.

What I have come to realize recently about trees is that their roots are as broad as their branches. We don’t often think about the roots because they are hidden from us, but the roots of our profession are what grounds us and keeps us strong. When I was creating this tree of pastel colors, I intentionally shaped the roots and the branches to be about the same size. It reminds me that there is so much wisdom we don’t see. Just because it is hidden it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Our integrity and purpose for the education of our children must be modeled in our values and commitment to respect and decency. Legacy Teachers represent that inner, unseen, stamina, that keeps us moving in the direction of hope and optimism for all. I invite you to join me in thinking about the many ways we can support our next generation of teachers by tapping into the enormous wisdom of our Legacy Teachers.


REACH OUT to me and share your ideas.

Let’s create a Legacy Teacher Network!