BUCKFIELD — Kay Herbert has enjoyed watching students go on to careers in teaching, nursing and other medical professions, physical therapy and engineering.

During her 27-year science-teaching career, she has seen hundreds pass through the doors of Dirigo High School and Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.

“It’s a nice feeling to know that you’ve made a difference. That’s very satisfying,” she said Friday in between helping her senior physics students work on a project at Buckfield.

When mid-June comes, she’ll be leaving her classroom and entering a whole new stage in her life that will be devoted to growing as much food in her home garden as possible and working part time as a physical therapist, her first career.

“Teaching has changed in the last quarter century, especially technology.

“Kids are a tougher audience. They want to be entertained because they are growing up in a world where they are constantly entertained,” she said.

“When I first started out in teaching (at Dirigo), I wrote everything out by hand, then went to the mimeograph machine to print it.”

Herbert, 61, was a physical therapist for 13 years in Massachusetts and Rumford before she decided to enter teaching. The birth of two sons, who now live in Brooklyn, N.Y., led her to teaching because such a profession was better aligned with her sons’ schedules.

The Hudson, N.H., native wants to become as self-sufficient as possible.

And her ongoing interest in vegetable gardening and preserving the harvest is one way to do that.

She likes working with students and the challenge it presents.

“It’s an incredibly difficult job if you do it right. It’s not an eight-hour day,” she said.

A return to practicing physical therapy will bring her to the opposite end of the age spectrum. She plans to work part time in area nursing homes.

“I need to keep my brain working and making a contribution,” she said. “I look forward to working with the older population.”

Now’s the time to retire from teaching because she is tired, she said.

“I want to get done while I’m still effective,” she said.

And having more time to herself means she’ll be able to take a day every now and then to read, snowshoe, hike or concentrate on her garden.

Herbert graduated from Northeastern University, then received her secondary science teacher certification from the University of Maine at Farmington. She later earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Southern Maine.

She and her husband, Gil Arsenault, live in Sumner.

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