Teacher makes retirement official

COURTESY PHOTO
Sharon Gibbs left on a medical leave of absence and now is formally retiring.

Retirement might seem anti-climatic for Sharon Gibbs since she’s been gone from the district since taking a sick leave in 2015 and technically retired from the district in October, 2018.

But Ms. Gibbs never got to celebrate. For the past three years she’s been battling cancer, keeping her from returning to the classroom she has loved.

When first diagnosed, she expected it would be a matter of weeks before she’d be on the mend, but her illness became complicated. After continually asking her oncologist when she could return to work, she finally faced the reality it was not to be. She began planning her exit last fall.

Despite her forced early departure, which she casually attributes to three occasions over the last three years that appeared to be death sentences, she’s a survivor, she said, still waging the battle.

“I literally almost died three times,” Ms. Gibbs said. “My focus had to become living with cancer and surviving cancer.”

She credits her large extended family with giving her strength to endure long hours on operating tables.

Much of her time is still consumed with medical therapies that require regular trips to Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan.

If there is a silver lining to her illness, it’s seeing her daughter, who has proven to be a wonderful caregiver, returning to school to become a registered nurse.

She was relieved to be able to join her colleagues in officially celebrating her retirement at a recent party at The Pridwin.

“I was not going to let cancer rob me of celebrating retirement,” Ms. Gibbs said.

She began teaching science in the district in 2000 and also took over the leadership of the school’s annual science fair.

“My greatest legacy is all the students,” she said, recalling that when she was first diagnosed, her thought was: “What about the kids?”

The decision to retire came when she realized students would be best served by someone who could be assigned to the science classroom on a permanent basis and not dealing with substitutes.

She credits her late mother-in-law, Betsy Gibbs, with giving her the key to being a good teacher, when she told her: “All kids can learn; as a teacher you just have to be able to figure it out.”

What she figured out was that her students needed a framework in which to excel and it was up to her to set high expectations for them. The small class sizes meant students interact with those of all ages and they naturally push one another and support one another, Ms. Gibbs said.

As for the future, she sums it up simply: “I try to take everything in life and use it to propel me forward.”

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