MEXICO — Brenda McInnis feels blessed to have the gift of teaching and to touch so many lives.

For the past 36 years, she has taught at Meroby Elementary School and the former Kimball and Abbott schools, all in Mexico. She will end her career in June.

“I wanted to leave while I’m still enjoying teaching. I love what I’m doing, so it will be bittersweet to leave,” said the 58-year-old Mexico native who lives in Rumford with her husband, Tim, also a retired teacher.

“I’ve never doubted being a teacher. When I think of all the lives I have touched, I feel blessed,” she said.

McInnis said she wanted to be a teacher ever since admiring her kindergarten teacher, Virginia Jones, and first grade teacher, Gail Parent. She counted them and her now-deceased parents, Ken and Sadie Brown, as her mentors.

As a young child, she and her sister, Bonnie, who is a teacher at Rumford Elementary School, played school with their three brothers. The two girls would often not allow their younger brothers to go outside or play until they finished the “school work” they had prepared for them.

After graduating from Mexico High School, she attended the University of Maine at Farmington to earn her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

She taught five years at the Kimball and Abbott schools and 31 at Meroby.

“I just love everything about 6- and 7-year-olds, their curiosity, energy. I love it when their eyes sparkle when they’ve accomplished reading a book, or when they talk about their families. This has kept me young and healthy. I feel like their second mom,” she said.

She also considers teaching a way to give back to her home community.

“The parents are so special. They give us their children and trust us to work with them and to help them learn,” she said.

And her colleagues have been supportive, as she has been supportive of them.

“It’s nice to be able to come to work and know you’re all together. It takes a village to educate a child,” she said.

McInnis is ready for the next chapter in her life. She will continue working on a book of angels, for example those people who have had such a deep influence on her life. Fellow teacher Gemma Morrill-Dreher, who is also retiring as an art instructor, will do the graphics for her book.

McInnis also wants to see more of her two children. Her son, TJ, lives in Florida, and her recently married daughter, Melissa, lives in Ohio.

She also wants to read more, cook more, travel more and exercise more.

Once she’s had some time at home, she hopes to volunteer in the school district, and eventually substitute.

“I know I’ll miss the children, my colleagues, the whole routine. But I will volunteer and I’ll still give back,” she said. “I’ve been so blessed, so glad that God gave me this gift of teaching.”

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