While majoring in different areas of education, three staff at Brownstown Elementary School shared one thing in common: they were able to work with many children for over a year at school.
Carolyn Ira taught special education, Cindy Koop was a special education resource teacher in English and mathematics, and Pam Rodriguez was the speech-language pathologist.
They have two other things in common: They retired at the end of the 2020-21 school year and they each ended their careers with over 40 years of study.
Ira graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 1977 and Ball State University in 1981, earning a special education degree.
She then obtained a Masters in Learning Disabilities and Emotional Disabilities from Indiana University.
In fact, she had planned to go to Ball State to study journalism so that she could write for women’s magazines. The summer before she started there, however, the time spent at Muscatatuck State Hospital changed her path of education.
âAfter that I fell in love with special education and never looked back,â Ira said.
âI think sometimes students who have difficulty are misunderstood,â she said. âWe focus so much of the time on what students can’t do versus what they can do, and some don’t have a voice, and I’ve seen this in the public hospital. Some (people) asked me “Why do they have to have an education?” And I said, “Then their life will be better.” “
She also said that every person needs to learn continuously to any degree that they can learn.
âSometimes we forget that they teach us, probably more than I taught them,â she said of her students.
Ira began teaching at Lawless Junior-Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. After 18 months there, she returned to her hometown and taught for three years at BES.
When this class moved to Bedford, she began the special education program at Brownstown Central High School.
âOh, it has evolved so much. He grew up in so many different ways, âshe said.
She remained at BCHS until this school year when she returned to BES.
âWhen I see kids from all those years ago who now have families and see that they are productive citizens, have jobs and have gone to college while some of them are graduating and being invited to their showers and weddings and part of so much of that is my reward, âIra said.
The biggest reward is not his salary, she says.
“It’s a kid coming to see you at the Jackson County Fair and he knows my first words came out of my mouth, ‘So what are you doing now? âI have a job, Ms. Ira,â she said. “These are the things that make more sense than all of these other things.”
In retirement, Ira plans to spend more time with her husband, Frank, and other family members.
âWe have seven grandchildren, and it’s about time. Forty years, it’s time, âshe said. âIt’s bittersweet. I enjoyed this year. That’s all I know.
She and Frank have four children and their grandchildren range from 7 months to 16 years old. They want to spend time with family and travel.
Koop is also a native of Jackson County, graduating from Crothersville High School in 1976.
She graduated with a degree in Elementary Education with a focus on Early Childhood from Southeast Indiana University in 1980 and went on to earn a Masters in Special Education.
Her mother was a horticultural teacher in Crothersville for many years, and an aunt and cousin were also teachers.
“I knew from probably third year that I wanted to be a teacher,” Koop said.
In 1980, she started at Sunshine School in Seymour, which was operated by Developmental Services Inc. She was the special kindergarten teacher for 3 and 4 year olds.
âI became a kindergarten teacher, but jobs were hard to find when I got out of college, so I got this job with Developmental Services, and I loved it,â she said. declared. “I loved working with the special little kids.”
It remained there until 1991, when a law was changed making public schools responsible for special early childhood education.
Koop then spent eight years at BES teaching half the day in special preschool and teaching math and reading the other half.
âThen there were too many preschoolers so we had to go our separate ways and I chose to go with the older kids,â Koop said of his role as a teacher- resource for students with special needs in the past 18 years.
During her 41 years of study, Koop said that she has helped children a lot.
âI see a lot of things when I was very young, and now I even know some of them as adults,â she said. “This part is rewarding to see them get married, find a job and move on.”
Like Ira, Koop said she knew it was time to retire.
âAfter 41 years, it’s time. I just want to be done, âshe said. “My husband (Marty) is retired, and it’s just about time.”
She plans to spend more time with her family, which also includes her only child, Aaron, and read and work in the garden.
Rodriguez is originally from Mobile, Alabama.
After graduating from high school there, she stayed in her hometown to study at the University of Southern Alabama and earn a degree in speech-language pathology.
âI didn’t want to work with a lot of people, but I wanted to work with people and I wanted to help people,â she said.
She started school in physiotherapy but then took a course in the speech therapy department.
âI just loved it,â she says. “I liked the people, I liked the teachers, and so from that point on, I took the floor.”
His first job in 1981 was a speech therapist for schools in Baldwin County, Alabama. She then obtained her master’s degree four years later.
Over the years, she has spent most of her career working in schools, the last seven being at BES.
âI just think it was icing on the cake,â Rodriguez said. âIt has been a great place. I appreciated the teachers, the children, the staff. I think Chrystal (Street, manager) is great. She is a great leader. She allowed me, she trusted me to do my job and helped me do it.
She said she enjoyed helping children who have difficulty speaking, pronouncing letters and words, and using words to make sentences overcome these problems.
âI have the best job in school,â she said with a smile, speaking with many students throughout their elementary school years. “I’ve been fortunate enough to really enjoy what I’m doing.”
She, too, said it was not a difficult decision to retire.
âMy husband (Jimmy) has a different schedule, and I have a different schedule, and our kids (Allison, Adam and Andrew) are all over the place. We just needed to keep it simple, âshe said. âRight now I really feel like there is so much to do that I don’t do certain things that I really want to do. I just can’t wait to be less busy.
In one look
Brownstown Central Community School Corp. Retirees 2021
Teresa Cutter, elementary school cafeteria aide, 21
Jody Hall, elementary school teacher assistant, 17
Carolyn Ira, secondary and elementary special education teacher, 39
Cindy Koop, elementary special education resource teacher, 30 years old
Joyce McKinney, Nurse Supervisor / School Nurse, 15
Jill Miller, elementary school guidance counselor, 18
Pam Rodriguez, elementary speech therapist, 7 years old
Deb Schwartz, special education teacher in high school, 19