NEW PALESTINE — When she graduated from New Palestine High School in 1975, Kathy Tucker had no idea she’d get the opportunity to one day teach there.
Just a few years after graduating from Franklin College, however, she landed her dream job and never left.
“That was always my goal to work here because of my roots,” Tucker said.
Before getting the job at NPHS, Tucker taught for three years at Maconaquah High School in Miami County.
Now, after 32 years of teaching health and physical education at NPHS and a total teaching resume of 35 years, Tucker will say so long to her profession when students wrap up classes this week.
“It’s just time,” Tucker said with a smile. “I’ve got two older sisters who were in education, and they are retired, so it just felt like it was kind of the right time.”
Tucker, who is in her mid-50s, said other than a planned trip to Sweden this summer, she has no idea what she’s going to be doing with all the spare time.
“I keep telling everybody that the first year I’m not working, I’m just going to piddle around,” Tucker said.
Tucker spent many of her years at NPHS coaching girls volleyball and basketball, but the majority of her time outside of the classroom was as the leader of the boys and girls tennis teams until 2001.
“I really enjoyed all those years coaching,” Tucker said.
Principal Keith Fessler said Tucker will be hard to replace because of all she’s meant to the school.
“Kathy is a pillar of our school,” Fessler said. “I can’t say enough about what she’s meant to New Palestine High School and to me personally. She’s been a teacher and coach and has really been a major influence in shaping our school into what it is today.”
As a person who likes to spend as much of her time outdoors as possible, Tucker said she plans to take long bike rides, hang out with family and just relax.
However, she still wants to stay involved in the community by volunteering when the opportunity is right.
“One of my goals is to try and do some kind of community service,” she said.
Noting that she loves to socialize with her peers and students, Tucker admits it will be tough to leave the school at which she has spent the majority of her career, but her heart told her it was time to retire.
“I knew when I gave up coaching a few years ago that it was the right time, and people have told me over the years you’ll know when it’s time to give up your educating too,” she said. “I don’t think this was a misread. It’s time for a routine change.”
In addition to teaching health and PE, Tucker said she’s also enjoyed teaching a drug education course.
“I think what’s been able to keep me in it for so long is I’ve had that combination of three classes and not just seven straight PE classes,” Tucker said.
While she admits plenty has changed through her many years in education, one thing never did. She always wanted to share the importance of good health with her students.
“I think being able to share that health is our most important asset, I think I will miss that passion of sharing that with young people,” Tucker said.
“I just told the kids last week that you can’t take this body to the car shop and ask for an oil change; you’ve got to work at it.”
While she may be retiring, Tucker said she still has really good thoughts about the teaching profession and is going out on a high note.
“I think anyone with their job wants to leave on a good feeling, and I am,” she said.