“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
– Fred Rogers

I never planned on a specific age of when to retire. As I began this school year, it seemed like it just might be the right year for it to be my last. And it is. On June 30, my career in education will end.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]

It has been a 32-year journey. The long hours of being a superintendent have left me wanting more free time to pursue other interests. I want to escape the long winters of Maine. I want to garden more during the all-too-brief growing season in Maine. I want to spend more time with my family and friends.

Someone asked me recently what I would be if I had the chance to do it all again. That’s an easy question. I would choose the path of an educator. As a young, redheaded, freckle-faced girl, I loved pretending to be a teacher with my own class. As a teenager, I taught Sunday school in a small rural church in Odem, Texas. I’ve been hooked on teaching and learning ever since.

My own report cards from school noted that I talked and giggled way too much. What better job to have than one that allows you to talk all day long. And on the days that giggling is a part of that day, all the better! I’ve always loved the routine of the school year and the surprises that occur daily from interacting with people, whether they are young or old, or somewhere in between.

And how lucky I’ve been to make a living as a leader – and to end my career in such a supportive district as RSU 5. My first administrative job was in 1997, when I became the assistant principal at Tripp Middle School in Turner. The job required me to work with the “naughty” kids for most of the day, which brings its own rewards: getting middle school students to reflect on their actions and grow from their mistakes.

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I have been supported by so many in my journey. Administrators who believed in my potential and encouraged me to become a superintendent. Many parents and students confided in me and colleagues shared the daily challenges and successes of trying to help each student succeed. My family has always supported me, even when it required late nights that took time away from them. I remain humbled and a little amazed by everyone who entrusted their children to my care for these 32 years.

I want to thank all the students I had over the years. It’s the one aspect that I will miss the most. On the days that I’m the most frazzled, all it takes is a visit to the schools to hear students singing or to see them debating an issue to remind me of why it’s worth doing the less enjoyable things like dealing with an angry parent or disgruntled staff member. I can’t stress enough the value of teaching our students to think critically, gain knowledge and acquire compassion, respect and empathy for one another. I feel honored to have been a part of my students’ lives.

I think back to a recent afternoon when I had the privilege of sitting in with some students and the principal. They shared data they had gathered with the goal to identify action steps to improve their school. They spoke articulately and passionately. For all those who feel like education is deteriorating, I can assure you it is not. All you need to do is take the time to read the writing of our students, hear them advocate for change or listen to them performing in a concert to know that as our generation hands the torch to the next, we are leaving our future in very capable hands.

Now, as I am approaching the finish line, I want to thank all of you – parents, staff, community members and students – who allowed me to be a small part of your journey. My life has been so enriched by yours. I hope in some small way I have made a difference in your journey. Thank you.