Commemorating Teacher Retirement on Facebook

Former students congregate to share memories of a beloved teacher.

By SHARE

Almost everyone has teachers they fondly remember from high school or elementary school. But do you keep in touch with them? Do you even know if they are still teaching? Enter Facebook. At least two dozen groups have formed to commemorate the retirement of a favorite teacher.

Evan Cobb, 28, a communications director in New Haven, Conn., formed a Facebook group to contact former students of his mother, global studies teacher Sue Cobb, 59, of Fredonia, N.Y. "I wanted to let people know that she was retiring and have them provide stories about her. Within about 24 hours, we had 100 members," says Cobb. The group currently has 320 members. "By the time we got to her retirement party, I'd gotten about 80 or so messages from students—testimonials about the difference that she made in their lives," says Cobb. He collected the stories in a binder and presented it to his mother at her retirement party. Sue Cobb retired this year and has since joined the group.

Edie Parrott, 52, an English teacher in Kennesaw, Ga., also wanted to make a memory book to honor her coworker, social studies teacher Margaret Wingate, who retired this year. But she needed a good way to track down former students. After a student suggested it, she reached out to Wingate's former students on Facebook. The group now has 246 members, and Parrott filled an approximately 200-page book with their collected pictures and writings about Wingate.

Parrott stayed on Facebook because she enjoyed chatting with current and former students using the service. "Particularly if you have taught for a long time, it is fun to open up and find you've got a message from someone you taught 20 years ago," Parrott says. She has also found that current students open up to her more since she joined. "When you have a student who is upset about the class or a grade, they are much more likely to send you a message and tell you that than they would in person," she says.

But Parrott doesn't think younger teachers will share her successful Facebook experience. "When older teachers go on, we're going on only because we are teachers. For younger teachers, there are so many potential problems," Parrott says. "When you're in your 50s, you're not putting anything provocative up there."

Did you know about it when your former teachers retired?