As the 2022-23 school year winds down, Herkimer Central School District is focusing the Spotlight Q&A feature on Herkimer CSD retirees.
Spotlight on: Melissa Elias
English 10 teacher, cross country coach
“I’m happy I spent my entire teaching career in this school – it has been an amazing work family to be a part of.”
Q. When is your specific retirement date?
A. Aug. 27, 2023
Q. When did you start working at Herkimer CSD?
A. Sept. 1, 1997
Q. What was your position when you started at Herkimer CSD?
A. I began as an English 9 teacher, and I taught that grade level for about eight years. Then, the 10th grade position opened up, and I moved to that grade level. I have taught a little bit of everything…Spanish, French, journalism, creative writing, SAT prep, literature classes and so on.
Q. Are there other roles you had while at Herkimer CSD that you would like to mention?
A. I’ve been on too many committees to mention, and I’ve been a class advisor for my whole teaching career, either for the seniors or the sophomores. The highlight of my “other roles” is my role as the cross country coach. It has been an awesome experience and one that I will remember forever. Coaching allowed me to get to know the students on another level and to see them doing funny, human things that we don’t get to see inside the classroom.
Q. What is a memory you would like to share from your time at Herkimer CSD?
A. I remember the old school building, which was about half the size that it currently is. The main office was about where the nurse’s office is now, and Mrs. McGuire was there, even back then. The gymnasium was where the music rooms are, and the current gyms did not exist. I have had many memories – I have enjoyed watching athletes accomplish their goals and break school records. I am in touch with many graduates, and they have gone on to live successful and happy lives. We have also endured some tragic losses, but we helped each other as a community.
Q. What is something you are particularly proud of from your time working at Herkimer CSD?
A. I’m proud of the period of time when I was the union president. There was a huge amount of pressure, and I had to have many uncomfortable conversations and make tough decisions, but I can honestly say I always did my best and led with integrity. I’m also proud of my cross country teams and how I was able to influence kids in a positive way through the sport of running. I hope that years from now, when my athletes are going for a run, they think of the good times we had as a team and all of the things we taught each other – more about life than about running. I’m also proud of the fact that I never short-changed my students. Even on days when I was not feeling well or struggling personally, I brought my “A” game to the classroom. I always made it a priority to teach my students with compassion and love, even on rough days when there were conflicts.
Q. What are your plans for retirement?
A. I plan to keep working! I have had so many opportunities pop up just in the last few months; I will be busier once I’m retired! I have a very active lifestyle, so I will continue to pursue fitness and horseback riding. I enjoy buying/selling real estate. I have a great family, and we all love to travel, so that’s definitely an option. I have grown children who live on the west coast, so I will spend time with them. Every once in a while, I might just sit home (but I doubt it).
Q. When you reflect on retiring from Herkimer CSD, what do you think about?
A. When I think about retiring from education, I think about how it has changed over the years. Expectations for teachers and students are very different than they once were. Mostly, I will think about my colleagues, who are really great people. I wish I could have spent more time with many of them outside of the classroom and school setting. I’m happy I spent my entire teaching career in this school – it has been an amazing work family to be a part of.