Teacher for 50 years begins her second attempt at retiring

Baltimore native found job she loved, she says

May 11, 2001|By Gerard Shields | By Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

When Gloria Paar began teaching first grade, Harry S. Truman was president, space remained unexplored and the Beatles were yet to be formed.

Now, after half a century of teaching, first in elementary schools and then in a nursery school, Paar, 73, is about to retire for the second time, grateful to have found a vocation she enjoyed.

"I never said I was going to work," Paar said. "I always said I was going to school."

Unlike many people who spend years trying to pick a career, Paar knew from the time she entered first grade in Southwest Baltimore that she wanted to be a teacher. She found herself helping teachers with chores, such as erasing blackboards and clapping erasers.

Today, Paar is the veteran at Christ Lutheran Nursery School, 5700 Edmondson Ave., where colleagues marvel at her experience.

"She has a way with the children, whether it's her tone of voice or mannerisms," said school secretary Leslye Mondimore. "I guess when you've taught for 50 years, you learn how to keep their attention."

Paar's first job after graduating from Maryland State Teachers College at Towson, now Towson University, was back in Baltimore at Westport Elementary School. It lasted a decade. She then spent a year in Japan, teaching the first-grade children of Air Force personnel.

"First grade is a very important grade because it is the foundation," Paar said.

She returned to the Baltimore area and taught for 21 years at Beechfield Elementary School in West Baltimore. She retired for the first time in 1983.

"I really wasn't ready to quit teaching," Paar said. "I felt very lucky to love my work."

Paar has spent the past 18 years at the nursery school, where colleagues credit her with bringing a youthful spirit to class.

"At times, I forget how old she is," said the pastor, the Rev. Barry Laird. "Because she'll pick up the ball and throw it with the boys."

Paar says the emergence of television and computers has been the biggest change in education in the past 50 years. Paar's fans say she has been able to keep pace.

"She always said she wanted to retire before the kids became smarter than she was," school director Claire Broglie said. "But she is never stuck in a rut. She was always able to blend the traditional ways with new ideas."

Paar, who will retire at the end of the month, plans to visit Australia this winter. She will remain on her bowling team and continue to cycle and take piano lessons, which might take her back to school.

"She said next year she wants to come back and play piano for the children," Broglie said.

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