RUMFORD — After devoting 50 years to education, including more than 40 in RSU 10, high school guidance counselor Jim Ippolito has decided to retire.
“I really enjoy my job. It makes me wonder if I’m making the right decision,” he said earlier this month from his office at Mountain Valley High School.
Through the years, he has counseled or helped guide thousands of students, most toward a college or career path and a few through personal problems.
“It’s not a classroom. There’s always something different going on. I could be involved in eight different things during the day,” he said.
Ippolito, 72, began his career as a physical education teacher in his home state of New Jersey. After eight years, he and his wife, Jolan, moved to Maine where she had summered and attended college and where they often skied. He began as a guidance counselor at the former Mexico High School in 1972.
Through the years, he has served as a guidance counselor in the Rumford School Department, SAD 43, and in RSU 10 the past four years.
Ippolito said working with the students has been his greatest joy.
“I get along with the kids and enjoy working with the staff,” he said.
Sometimes, he said, the job has been frustrating, such as when he can’t quite get through to a student. But often, a couple of years later, he said many attend adult ed and do something with their education.
“Not everyone at age 18 has all the answers. At 20, 22, or 25, they can still get a good education,” he said.
He has helped launch several programs within the district, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Peer Helpers.
He and Jolan, a part-time employee with the Mahoosuc Land Trust, own a large farmhouse and 200 acres in Rumford Point. There, he grows vegetables and flowers, and manages a woodlot.
The couple also raised three children — Janel, who works at the University of New England, James, a computer manager in Cumberland, and Jeffrey, an engineer who works for a biotech firm in Boston.
Ippolito said the biggest change he has seen over the years is students' awareness of how important it is to get a good education.
He said when the last day of school arrives in mid-June he probably won’t realize the impact of retirement until classes resume in late August.
He plans to do more traveling, gardening and skiing.
Ippolito graduated from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and earned a master’s degree in administration there. He earned his master’s in guidance from Newark State College, also in New Jersey.
He and Jolan have four grandchildren.