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Once a teacher, always a teacher

Although Anne Ayala retired in 1982 as an English teacher at Leto High School, she tries to stay involved in education, especially as it pertains to teaching.

It's not always easy, Ayala says, now that her classroom days are over.

But through the West Hillsborough County Retired Educators' Association, Ayala is able to keep abreast of important issues.

"The association speaks for us and ensures that we don't get lost in the shuffle," said Ayala, who joined the association 11 years ago.

Last week, the association sponsored a reception tea for teachers and other local educators who retired this past year. The reception at the Hyde Park Methodist Church was the 33rd annual meeting honoring retirees.

But the group's main goal is to continue that recognition year-round.

"The continual support of retired teachers and the security of their welfare is the purpose of our organization," president Ruth Meares said. "Receptions such as these enable the organization to broaden its membership while becoming acquainted with other former teachers seeking the same goals."

Meares, who taught exceptional child education at Homebound, said the association not only has opened new channels of communication with her peers, but it also has allowed her to become more active politically.

"The main reason for my affiliation with (the association) has to do with what we can accomplish through the unity of the group," Meares said.

Meares said the legislation deals primarily with ensuring that teachers' pensions are kept up. She said that recently the Florida Retired Educators' Association has assured a small (3 percent) increase in the cost of living in retiree income each year.

Established in 1959, the association has 85 active members and a newsletter circulation of almost 400. The group sponsors seasonal events that give members the opportunity to socialize. The next event is the annual Arts and Crafts Fair in November.

Marjorie Middlebrook, a recent retiree and member of the association, is planning to attend the fair.

"Being that I'm newly retired, I thought it would be nice to get out and meet some new acquaintances," said Middlebrook, who taught business education at Chamberlain High School. "The fair enables me to get involved. Every time I've gone, I've had a wonderful time."

Middlebrook said one of the main reasons for her involvement with the association is that she believes in its worthiness.

"I was pleased with what good they did as far as their goals and purposes," Middlebrook said. "I found the people were very friendly and that many of the teachers, although elderly, were still interested in the students."