A sixth-grade teacher at Northside Intermediate School, Sharon Hamilton was at first excited to be retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Now she said she is disappointed.
“To end my career without my kids or colleagues is so bizarre,” Hamilton said of the school year ending with virtual learning.
Hamilton, who grew up in Neenah, never wanted to be a teacher. At least that’s what she thought.
But every time she took a test to determine what career would best suit her, she was told she should be a teacher.
She went to UW-La Crosse and quit halfway through her junior year, moved to Florida and realized she wanted a degree. She contacted a university to find out what major she could graduate with given the credits she already had earned. “Education” was the answer.
“I was pretty sure once I had my degree, I could pretty much find a job that suited me, just not a teacher,” she said.
Going into the schools for clinicals, she learned she liked teaching.
Thirty years have passed and Hamilton said it’s been a great ride. She started her teaching career in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin and was there for five years. She started working on her master’s. In the summer she lived in La Crosse and would take classes the first four weeks then work as the food service manager that fed the New Orleans Saints during training camp.
After Twin Lakes, Hamilton taught in Milton.
Students in her first class are well into their 40s. One of the students in her first Milton class brought his baby daughter to school this year so she could meet her.
Others connected with her recently at a retirement gathering.
When asked what she enjoyed most about teaching, Hamilton said there are many things.
“I really love my kids and how unique all of them are,” she said. “I love working after school with them when they finally get something or getting more confident in their abilities.”
Hamilton had her share of fun. When students were quietly working, she would look at them, her heart swelling with pride, then she would scream just to scare them.
“I know it’s mean, but we all get a good chuckle from that,” she said.
She enjoyed sharing life lessons with her students and said, “the amazing thing is that some of them really listen.”
She told her students they shouldn’t get a credit card until they have a full-time job. Years ago she ran into a former student and learned college just wasn’t working for her, she was taking a break.
“I asked her how much debt she had on her credit cards – her response, ‘Miss Hamilton, I don’t have a credit card, you told me not to get one until I had a full time job!’”
Another Hamilton life lesson for the girls is make sure you moisturize your neck.
“Some faces have no wrinkles, but when you look at the neck – Wow! Lots of wrinkles,” she said.
Wrinkles aside, she truly hopes she helped teach students to be kind and thoughtful.
“I’m quite certain all of my students have learned how to properly shake someone’s hand,” she said.
At the end of every school day she’d have the kids line up at the door to shake her hand and say good night.
“Also if we had words or an incident,” she said, “I want them to know, we’re all good.”
Not just any handshake would do.
“It’s got to be a nice firm handshake while looking them in the eye,” she said.
When Hamilton said, Have a good night,” students were to respond: “Thank you, you, too.”
Fridays were different. Hamilton would say: “Have a good weekend, have fun, be safe and wear your seat belt.”
“I truly believe manners are so very important,” she said. “Some kids are never taught them and I tell them manners will make all the difference when you’re looking for a job or just want to be a good person.”
In addition to missing her students, Hamilton will miss the people she worked with.
“They truly are the best – we are there for each other and the support is amazing,” she said, adding especially when it came to virtual learning.
This summer, for the first time since teaching in Milton, Hamilton is not teaching summer school. In fall, she plans to look for a job to help her pay for home improvement projects.
If the kids could be with her in person and handshakes were allowed, they no doubt would shake her hand firmly and say, “Have a good retirement, Miss Hamilton.”