FOND FAREWELL: Mt. Vernon teachers embrace retirement after lengthy careers

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Retiring teachers James Cochran, center, and his wife Karen Cochran, second from right, right are joined by students, from left, Nicole Burris, Ava Crouch and Riley Nielsen at a staff appreciation ceremony at Mt. Vernon High School. Students pictured from left to right include…

FORTVILLE — Karen Cochran is one of the longest-serving teachers in Mt. Vernon High School’s history.

After 42 years in the classroom, the longtime educator is about to retire alongside her husband, fellow teacher James Cochran, who has been teaching at Mt. Vernon High School since 2008.

The couple plan to ride off into the sunset in their motor home this summer on a quest to explore the country.

“As much as I’ve enjoyed my time at Mt. Vernon, I am really looking forward to retiring with Karen and getting to travel a bit,” said James, who has coached diving and taught the Jobs for America’s Graduates class at the high school for the past 10 years.

He’s also sponsored the school’s Community Service Club over the past decade. His wife, in the meantime, has taught business classes since 1981.

“Back then we were using manual typewriters,” said Karen Cochran, who can attest that business classes have changed quite a bit since the days of teaching shorthand.

“Things are so much more digital these days,” she said.

Back in the 80s, young women taking business classes were mostly headed toward jobs as secretaries or administrative assistants, she said.

These days, the business teacher has seen many students move on to study in business in college and start their own business ventures.

“I’ve enjoyed the students a lot. They ask questions and are always so eager to learn,” said Karen Cochran, who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s in business education from Butler University.

The longtime educator, who grew up in Cumberland, started her teaching career at the relatively young age of 20.

She’s thrilled to have spent her entire teaching career at Mt. Vernon High School.

“The community has been great. We raised our own two children here,” said Cochran, who had each of her kids — David Cochran and Laura Cochran— in class.

She said she’s proud to have experienced the growing pains that have made the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. the district it is today.

“When I first started teaching here we were more of a rural farm community. Now we’re teaching more advanced courses like agri-science, agri-business, things like that. Over the years we’d be short on classrooms, short on teachers and we’d run out of room, but we were a family,” she recalled.

“We’re still a family, just a bigger one,” she said.

While she’ll miss her students and colleagues, Cochran said she can’t wait to retire alongside her husband and hit the open road.

“We’ve always loved traveling but (as teachers) we always had to make it back in time to get ready for school. Now we just want to take our time and explore and see what’s out there,” she said.

The couple plans to travel out west and hopes to take an Alaska cruise some day.

“We haven’t really made a lot of plans. We’ll just see where things take us,” Karen Cochran said.

Her husband of nearly 40 years can’t wait to hit the open road after closing the chapter on an enjoyable teaching career, which he started after working for a number of years selling insurance.

“It’s been pretty amazing coming from another career into the school system. It’s a completely different culture than the business setting as I was in,” he said.

Maria Bond, Mt. Vernon’s director of communications, said she can’t recall having many teachers — let alone couples — who have taught as many years as the Cochrans.

“I can’t remember that we have had one person at the same building for 42 years,” said Bond.

“Karen and James are very special to us here at Mt. Vernon, and we wish them well.”