WOODSTOCK — Vickie Meisner has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember.
“I used to babysit and I loved it,” she said.
Now, 39 years after she first set foot in an elementary classroom, the 60-year-old Andover resident is leaving the career she has cherished. Now, she'll have more time to visit her daughter, Megan, and 8-year-old grandson, Ethan, who live in Massachusetts.
But she'll miss her students and the staff at Woodstock Elementary School. Because the school is so small, about 83 pupils, everyone is like family, she said. She's been teaching at Woodstock for 12 years, and has sometimes taught first or third grades, and in Andover, she taught in multi-grade classrooms.
Her first year in the classroom, at Andover Elementary School, and her last year at Woodstock, were both as teacher to second-grade classes, her favorite age group.
“I love the kids. They listen and want to do a good job. They love everything they do,” she said of second-graders.
She was a member of the next to the last graduating class from Andover High School in 1967, then graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington in 1971. Her first job, which lasted 27 years, was at her former high school, which by then had changed to an elementary school.
“It felt strange, but comfortable,” she said of teaching where she had attended high school.
She has loved coming into work each day.
“It's very challenging. Each day is different, and each year there's a new group of kids. I like seeing them change throughout the year and knowing I was a part of it. It's all very exciting.” she said.
Everywhere she goes, she sees former students.
“Two are on the (SAD 44) school board — Keith Smith and Tim Akers, both from Andover,” she said. “Tim was in my very first second-grade class.”
She says they always share what they are doing, whether they have children of their own, and other details about their lives. She's even taught the children of some of her students.
Her classroom is stuffed with books, children's artwork, colorful posters and bright creations hanging from the ceiling. Over a 39-year teaching career, she has accumulated a lot.
“They (the staff) call me the collector,” she said.
Most of her teaching materials will be left for other teachers in the school to use.
She decided to retire now because she turned 60, wanted to see her daughter and grandson more often, and saw the budget difficulties the district is experiencing.
“It's a good time. I've done my thing,” she said.
She plans to spend the first year of retirement working in her flower garden, completing some home projects and catching up with her reading. She and her husband, Marshall, also volunteer for Andover's annual Olde Home Days celebration. After a year, maybe, she'll return to the classroom as a volunteer.
Her many years of teaching has been noticed by the superintendent of SAD 44, David Murphy. He nominated her to receive the Educational Employee of the Year Award from the Bethel Chamber of Commerce. She, her husband, and virtually all of the Woodstock elementary staff, along with members of her family, will attend the award ceremony at the Grand Summit Hotel at the Sunday River Ski Resort on May 7.
“I was totally shocked,” she said of the award.
When the last day of school arrives in mid-June, she said she will be thrilled to be able to fully experience each of the seasons without working. But she'll also be very sad.
Over the years, she has taught nearly 700 children.