Virginia Vernier: Going home from school after 41 years

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

People are talking about Ginny Vernier’s 38 years of service to the Morenci school district, but that’s not the whole story. Her teaching career actually spanned 41 years when you add in the three at Sand Creek.

In fact, she was ready for another year with the neighboring district to the northeast back in 1965.

ginny “I had already signed a contract with Sand Creek in the spring,” she said. “I got a call from Mr. Geisler [Morenci’s superintendent at the time] and I broke my contract.”

That was frowned on more 40 years ago than it is today, Ginny said, but she grew up in the Morenci district, she still lived in Morenci, and she jumped at the chance to teach here.

Rex Riley was the first of many principals who she outlasted, and she still has much admiration for the man. He wasn’t one to tell a teacher how to do something, but he made his opinion clear.

“Well, do you think that’s a good idea?” Ginny says, imitating the Riley voice.

Ginny wasn’t the sort of teacher who knew as a kid that she belonged in the classroom.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I floundered. My mom made me go to college.”

But she enjoyed helping others, and after she took some education classes, student teaching went really well. It all just blended together, she said.

“Teaching is a very good career for a mother,” Ginny said. “Eventually your hours turn out to be you children’s hours.”

All but five of Ginny’s 41 years have been spent in a kindergarten room. The majority of that time with the traditional half-day every-day format. About 10 years ago the change to the alternate-day program began, and for her last year on the job, the best of all arrived.

This was Morenci’s first year with a full-day every-day program, and she’s completely sold on the concept. Looking through the achievements of this year’s students, she sees accomplishments like never before.

“Common sense tells you that it would improve [with additional time in the classroom], but I was just amazed with the progress. It really made a big difference.”

Time to retire

Ginny intended to last a full 40 years with the Morenci district, but there were several factors that led to her decision to step down.

She wanted to be part of the all-day program, but she didn’t expect it to arrive here as fast as it did. The school board offered a new early severance package, and made sense to Ginny in her position.

“With my twin grandchildren, I knew I would be needed there.”

She also wanted a little more time to spend with her own parents.

The was the first year she had a third generation student. It was Julie (Bachman) Bachelder many years ago, then her daughter, Heather (Bachelder) Cook. This year, Heather’s son, Wyatt, was a student in Ginny’s room.

But mostly, she wanted to go out when she was still on top.

“I wanted to retire when I had a good attitude and still wanted to come to work,” she said. “I didn’t want to wait until it was drudgery. It was a hard decision to make. If I’d hated my job, it wouldn’t have been so hard.”

She’s teary-eyed, she says, but she’s not really sad. Then again, it probably won’t really hit until the fall.

If there’s a regret, it’s probably related to the renovation work underway at the school.

“I do wish I’d have stuck it out for another year to enjoy the new air conditioning.”

 

    - June 11, 2003
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