Retiring Hixson Middle School reading teacher Liz Heitman talks to students, from left, Chantel Ingram, Briana Benton and Alex Johnson. A retirement party will be held in her honor on May 20 at the Kirkwood Train Station.
photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
May 18, 2012Liz Heitman may be retiring this school year after teaching for 58 years in the Webster Groves School District, but she'll always be a teacher.
"I don't know how I got to teaching so long, but I just didn't want to quit," said Heitman, who is currently a reading teacher at Hixson Middle School. "I worked my whole career in Webster with fabulous administrators and teammates."
Her first teaching job in 1954 - fresh out of college - was at the now shuttered Lockwood Elementary School. In 1966, she moved over to Hudson Elementary where she taught until 1978, then went to Steger, an elementary school at the time. In 1984, she returned to Hudson until 1998, where she retired from full-time teaching. Upon her retirement at that time, Hudson's library was named in her honor.
Retirement didn't last long. That same year, she began working part time in the district's central office helping Assistant Superintendent David Robert. She returned to the classroom in 2000 at Hixson as a part-time reading teacher and "encourager."
After all the classes and the students, she never became disillusioned or burned out on teaching.
"Some people get burned out, but that's something I never experienced," Heitman said. "I still love teaching. It's my whole life really.
"I always wanted to be a teacher because I like kids," she said.
Her vocation has exceeded her expectations.
"Very much so. In fact, I even have talked a couple of my friends into going into teaching," she said.
"One thing about teaching is that it's not only fun working with the kids, but it's a challenge," Heitman said. "I like the challenge because I like to see the successes - not that we see success all the time."
Over the years Heitman has been asked if she prefers teaching grade school or middle-school students.
"I would have told you many years ago that the little ones are my favorites, but the big kids are fun, too," Heitman said. "They're not any different really. They need the same thing whether they're 2 or 20. Students just want to be liked. They just want to be loved."
Heitman obviously loves her students and that feeling seems to be mutual. When seventh-grader Briana Benton saw Heitman she gave her a big hug telling her she couldn't retire.
"Please don't retire, I need you here," Benton said.
Other Hixson students have told Heitman that the only reason they made it to high school was because she made them do their work, Heitman noted.
While the youngsters are "darling," Heitman said she'll miss the young teachers the most when she retires.
Even after she retires Heitman will continue to "pass on the torch" to future teachers.
For the past 14 years, not only has Heitman been teaching youngsters, but she's been supervising student teachers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She plans to continue that job for another year. Heitman also tutors at the Sylvan Learning Center in Chesterfield, and has no plans to quit.
Fellow Hixson teacher Nancy Hansbrough, who teaches communication arts and social studies, has been inspired by Heitman.
"She is one of the most positive people I know and her capacity and patience for seeing the good in kids is infinite," said Hansbrough.
"We hate to see her go, but we are excited for her because she's not stopping. She teaches teachers and I'm so glad this attitude, which we so desperately need, is getting passed on," she added.
Hixson Principal Jason Heisserer called Heitman a "great addition to our school."
"She's committed, loyal; she's positive, humble and does all this out of the joy of doing it," he said. "We're proud to have her and we're sad to see her go, but we appreciate everything she's added to our school."
Students, families and friends are invited to a reception in Heitman's honor on Sunday, May 20, 1 to 3 p.m. at the Kirkwood Train Station, 110 W. Argonne at Kirkwood Road.