Leaving a legacy: retired teacher reflects on her time at South

Margaret+Reese%2C+second+from+right%2C+at+her+daughter%27s+graduation.+Retirement+has+allowed+her+to+spend+more+time+with+her+family.

Margaret Reese, second from right, at her daughter's graduation. Retirement has allowed her to spend more time with her family.

Gabriela Dulworth '22, Staff Writer

A teacher’s job, in addition to informing their students on standardized subjects, is to help them create an effective work ethic and help them gain skills that can be used throughout life. These skills may vary between classes; a history class might give you a better political awareness and a science class might give you a better environmental awareness.
For retired art teacher Margaret Reese (formerly known as Margaret Rose) her students left her classroom with a developed style, unique to their own artistic taste.
“In her class, I was able to develop my own style,” Audrey Turner ‘20 said. “It was cool because I had so much liberty as well as access to so many different mediums.”
Reese provided a welcoming environment for her students to use as a creative outlet and nurtured their respective skills.
“She provided an atmosphere that they could feel comfortable in,” Tom Szmrecsanyi, art teacher, said. “She handled students in a very warm and caring way.”
But when a teacher retires, what happens to their legacy? What do they do in retirement, and what of their memory at South? For Reese, her memory and legacy have been immortalized at South through the bonds she formed with her co-workers and former students.
“When having conversations with her it was always easy to take away things that she was saying,” Szmrecsanyi said. “Things that were sort of the foundation of her big idea behind everything.Which, really, does oil down to how she was: caring, friendly and making sure students are enjoying themselves in her classroom.”
Those same relationships formed with those around her, according to Reese, were her favorite part of the job.
“The best part of teaching was the relationships I had with students,” Reese said. “It was joy, pure joy. Not the teaching part, just getting to know different people, young and older. I totally miss connecting with them.”
These bonds that Reese forms didn’t fade with graduation nor with retirement. Szmrecsanyi recalled parent-teacher conferences where former students of Reese’s (now parents) still remembered each other.
“She got to the point where, during conferences, she would see former students who are now parents,” Szmrecsanyi said. “The exchanges there were always friendly and happy. The students loved to go back to Brownell to visit her as well.”
Despite missing her job, Reese is enjoying the tranquility of retirement. In retirement, she is allowed more time to spend time with her husband and daughters, as well as her true passion that started this all: art.
“I’m taking a painting class at Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and I get to see my daughters more, as well,” Reese said. “I have a twenty-three-year-old and a twenty-six-year-old daughter that I get to see more often now that I am retired. We’re doing more things together and of course, being with my husband.”
Since Reese is still technically a newlywed, in retirement she has gotten more time to not only spend with her husband but his respective family as well.
“We just started a new tradition here at Thanksgiving which is having my children, his two sisters and my daughters’ boyfriends over for Thanksgiving here,” Reese said. “It’s just a lot of new traditions and new things.”
However fun new traditions and adventures may be, Reese admits that it was quite the adjustment when everybody else went back to school and she didn’t. Nevertheless, she stays open to opportunity and chance, choosing to stay optimistic.
“I think it was thrilling when it was that first day of school and I wasn’t there. You almost feel oddly guilty,” Reese said. “I’m trying to do a lot of living life in the moment and not getting ahead of myself. It is such a crazy career, to teach, wonderful yet so busy. You’re never really done at the end of your day. To have nothing, it was hard to get used to that. But now I can sort of enjoy it.”