Graduation means colleague farewells, too

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Good Lord willing, I’ll be back,” Kim Harrison said. After two surgeries in two years, Harrison has worked hard to restore her health. When we chat away from school, she is walking. “Getting her steps in,” Harrison calls it. I call those steps her path to recovery—and back to PHS art.

“After this year, I’m retiring,” Nelson Gooden said. He’s said this many times since our first meeting in a Pelham High School garden of portable learning cottages where the auditorium now stands. I smile and nod my head.

Gooden, Harrison and I all started teaching the same year. They were at PHS; I was at Thompson High School. After one year, a PHS principal’s call brought me back to my alma mater.

Last year, Harrison officially retired; however, she returned to teach part-time this year and hopes to do the same next year. As the PHS Literary Magazine Adviser, watching her students’ work go into print and win awards is delightful. Harrison asks her art students questions that lead them to their best work. She inspires them.

When Harrison’s second serious surgery became necessary this spring, we worried. What I saw from my very first visit during her recovery was Harrison’s determination to recover quickly so that she could return to teaching. Back at school weeks before anyone believed possible, Harrison helped her AP Art students meet portfolios deadlines.

“Kim Hinds did a great job motivating my students in my absence,” Harrison said. “She cracked the whip and kept them on track,” laughed Harrison.

Nelson Gooden hopes to be back at PHS part-time next year also. He really did retire. Chef Allen also retires and plans a part-time return.

Veteran government teacher April Cullom resigned. She plans to work part-time with A+ College Ready for now and “return to teaching later.”

Other teachers are leaving also. Grown-up graduation is tough. Watching students leave is hard, but that’s the natural process. Seeing old and new grown-up friends move on leaves a void. Graduation is always hard for this teacher still on the hill.