The nomination letter for Pam Scheeline as Senior Citizen of the Year starts off by saying, “Though she would throw a pair of her iconic high-heels at anyone that called her a senior citizen, Pam Scheeline has made a significant difference in her retirement.”
Scheeline started teaching in Winters in 1970 and thought she might be here a year or two. She grew to love the town and had a wonderful set of colleagues. She retired in 2006, and is still working in the school system as a volunteer.
“I don’t think of myself as a senior citizen,” says Scheeline. “But when a student comes up to me and says, ‘My grandma says to say hi to you. You taught her when she was 8 years old,’ I have to accept the fact that I am older than I once was.”
Scheeline says the schools are much different than they were 45 years or so ago. When she started, there was no written curriculum. She was told to ask the teacher next door for some books to help stimulate her students.
There was no school library. When she wanted to take her students to the town library, she was told that wasn’t permissible because the students would “disturb the books.”
“We have come tremendously far,” she notes.
In fact, those early experiences taught her one of the principles that has guided her professional and personal life.
“That was a real life lesson,” she says. “You have to be open to new experiences throughout life. Once you are unwilling or unable to make changes, whether you are age 40 or 60, it’s not good for yourself or for society. It is important to mentor younger people. I don’t want to petrify.”
Petrification does not look like an option for Scheeline.
After she retired, she was in New York with a friend, seeing a one-woman play, when the Winters Superintendent of Schools called and asked if she would be willing to come back and be the principal at Winters Middle School for a month. The month turned into seven years of administrative work. Her post-retirement career extended from 2007 to 2014.
She was at the middle school for a few years and then was principal at Shirley Rominger Inermediate School. It was there that she realized that it made more sense to have both Shirley Rominger and Waggoner schools combined as one Winters Elementary School. The young students experience continuity in their education and the schools have similar staff and curriculum, and are united under one principal, currently Greg Moffitt. Scheeline had hired Moffitt as her Assistant Principal when at Rominger.
She finally retired in 2014.
Scheeline is still at Waggoner as a volunteer, making sure that the ROAR (Reach Out And Read) Program is viable. It was an idea she had while principal. It puts an adult in classrooms for an hour a week to listen to students learning to read for the first time. The students get one-on-one attention from an adult, get to show off their skills at reading and understanding, and become less shy about reading out loud, an experience not all of them readily have at home.
The nomination letter for Scheeline says, “Pam’s ability to support and challenge parents, teachers and students is nothing short of miraculous.”
It is easy to see why when you talk to her about students. Her face lights up.
“Kids are kids. Kids are not different now — they have lots of challenges and lots of opportunities. I see kids as spontaneous, funny, good, fun-loving. I feel for parents. It is not an easy world to raise children in.
“School offers security to kids. It gives them structure, high expectations and values. It is criminal that teachers are not the most valued profession in society.
“We, as a society, have to change how we think about schools and education.”
Scheeline is embarrassed to be getting this award.
“So many other people do so much. I don’t deserve an award for being a senior citizen. I was happily enjoying my anonymity. I have a horse that I love being with. I’m an exercise buff and now I have time for it.”
She is very enthusiastic about Winters as a good place to raise children. She feels her children had opportunities here that they would not have had in a bigger school. She says they have lifelong friends from here, and enjoy visiting Winters. They grew up in a diverse population, and they had a lot of personal mentoring from teachers.
“You can’t get away with a lot in a small town. We don’t want Winters to ever lose the feeling of ownership over what happens in this town.”
It doesn’t look like Pam Scheeline will ever really retire.