Community invited to join virtual retirement celebration
By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
After 32.5 years teaching at Burns Park Elementary, Molly Crankshaw had envisioned the way she would draw her career to an end this year.
“I was looking forward to celebrating with my class, the Burns Park Clap Out on the last day of school and being able to say goodbye to everyone at Burns Park,” she says. “I was also looking forward to gathering with other AAPS employees that are also retiring this year, many of whom I’ve known for my entire career.”
Alas, the 2019-2020 school year didn’t end the way anyone could have predicted in September.
For more than 40 years, retirees were honored at a local banquet facility—most often Weber’s. This year, the Ann Arbor Public Schools will recognize and celebrate employees who are retiring from the district through a virtual ceremony this Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m.
About 50 AAPS employees are retiring this year, with the exact number and names to be announced at the virtual event. To tune into it, click here.
Of course, coworkers have been celebrating retirees in their own way.
Community High School theater teacher Quinn Strassel, for instance, created the following video to honor coworker Robbie Stapleton upon her retirement:
As Strassel explains:
“Robbie is one of my teaching heroes. I’ve never met a teacher who goes so far above and beyond her job description. In addition to being a master teacher who constantly revamps her curriculum and stays up to date on issues affecting teens, she also takes on more “extras” than anyone I know. She has lead our Depression Awareness Group (with peer-to-peer support), Tuned In (which did hilarious performances that taught kids about difficult issues), Connect with Community (which welcomed incoming 8th graders), C.H.A.T. (Community High Athletic Tribe), and she has been a bonafide parent-figure to every student who has ever been in her forum.
In addition to all of that, she personally introduced me to all the running trailheads in the area when she heard I was starting to run longer distances. It changed my life.”
He said when he heard she was retiring, his jaw hit the floor.
“Normally, I’d sing a song or perform a funny retirement skit at our year-end staff party but we weren’t able to do one this year with social distancing in effect. So I decided to write a song and make a music video. Robbie is the biggest Bruce Springsteen fan I’ve ever met so I decided to write a song in the style of The Boss. It seems like so many of his songs have to do with running away and I thought that was a hilarious way to view Robbie’s retirement–“So Whatcha Runnin’ from Robbie.”
“The project kind of took on a life of its own (who doesn’t want to be Bruce Springsteen for a weekend?) and I got a lot of help from our staff, Robbie’s former students, and even a number of retired teachers who wanted to honor Robbie. It was a blast. It was also the least I could do to honor a teacher who has given more than anyone I know to change the lives of countless kids.”
Stapleton says Strassel’s work should go international, noting: “To get all those people, including my family and past grads to do this and then produce it in – what? – 24 hours?! Unreal.”
Strassel is among the coworkers Stapleton says she will miss very much.
“I am, and have been for 30-plus years, in awe of their brilliance, their playfulness, their dedication to honest education and kids, their friendship,” she says of her fellow staff. “I will miss being with them and absorbing their awesomeness daily.”
Stapleton started in the district at Community High in 1987 as a history teacher and switched to health and physical education in 2000 after taking some time off to have babies in the ’90s.
“I will sorely miss working and playing with teenagers every day,” she says. “Many have become life long friends and my former forum students truly are like family to me.”
But as her sister told her: “You can love your job and not want to do it the rest of your life.”
“So my husband and I plan to wrap up hiking all the national parks—we’ve done 41,” she says. “And I have a brand new grandbaby in North Carolina. And of course, I was born to run. So I’ll do plenty of that.”
Molly Crankshaw said her best memory at Burns Park was the moment Dr. Joan Burke, her principal at the time, hired her and told her class that Miss Sykes was changing from student teacher to teacher for the remainder of the year.
“Other memories that stand out are so many former students who I still keep in contact with today through the magic of social media,” she says. “I have attended weddings, graduations, and celebrated their children being born. I have always appreciated being remembered and having former students drop in to visit and reminisce about their days in my classroom. I will also always remember former colleagues Caroline Crippen, Elsa Stafford, Gerrie Reiff, Mary Bruening, and Carolyn Ellingson who took me in as a new teacher and supported me in my beginning years. Burns Park is just a very special place for me. I have been there over half of my life.”
Asked what she’ll miss most about teaching at Burns Park, she said it’ll be the traditions.
“Leading the Halloween Parade, having former students in for lunch, and all of the personal connections I have made with so many students and families. What I will miss most about teaching is working with students and encouraging them to be their best both inside and outside of the classroom. I like to think I taught them more than just the three Rs.
Did the shutdown make her reconsider retiring?
“I did sort of second guess myself and wondered if I should reconsider, but I am a planner and I have lots of things I want to do and places to go,” she said. “I had the support of my family and so I decided to follow through with the plan to retire.”
She said she’s eager to enjoy her freedom and not feel tied to a 9 to 4 schedule. She has lots of family photos to sort through, plans to make a family cookbook, do some volunteering, and get out and see the world.