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Independent living residents and retired teachers shared special bonds with students

Back-to-school season is here, and children are buying new clothes, stocking up on supplies, and savoring the last few precious days of summer.

Teachers are also heading back into classrooms to prepare for another academic year, engaging in their own back-to-school rituals. Two Wichita Presbyterian Manor couples know this routine well. Independent living residents Marilyn and Warren Ramsey and Mark and Gay Ritchey spent most of their careers as teachers in the Wichita Public School system.

In fact, Mark and Gay met while they were both teaching at Mayberry Junior High School. They taught in different classrooms, of course, and they didn’t share a lunch period. They may not have become acquainted had they not received a push.

“We were set up by a couple of students,” Mark explained. “I think some of the kids realized that each of us was on their side, and they thought we might get along.”

It worked. The couple began dating in the fall of 1978 and married the following June. Their colleagues didn’t know they were an item, but all the kids were in on it, they said. Sometimes, their students would pass notes between them during the school day.

Gay was an art teacher who taught students a broad range of techniques, including ceramics. But she taught a lot of papier-mâché, the supplies for which could be acquired for free, if her budget necessitated it.

She originally majored in art education because the degree didn’t require a foreign language, but her vocation wound up being a good fit. She used art to reach her students, and she also loved the subject.

“It was my favorite thing ever — doing art and going to see art,” she said. “My class was also an elective, so kids were there because they chose to be. It was always entertaining. No two days were alike, so it was great fun.”

Prior to entering the classroom, Mark earned a master’s degree in history. However, he decided he would rather be a math teacher. His favorite teacher taught math, and math teachers we in short supply, then as now. Fortunately, he had enough credit hours in the subject to become certified.

Mark, who taught at Wilbur for five years before accepting at job at Mayberry, also served as the president of the Wichita Federation of Teachers.

Marilyn and Warren Ramsey worked at different schools throughout their respective careers. Warren taught several subjects at Pleasant Valley, including physical education, history, business, and typing. He also coached basketball and track.

Warren was teased for being a late bloomer when he was in school. As a consequence, “He was always on a mission to be sure all the children were treated equally.” Marilyn explained.

She taught English, and started her career at Truesdell. Later, she worked at Wilbur and Northwest High School. At Truesdell, Marilyn had the opportunity to teach a combined English and world history class, which incorporated short stories and a Shakespearean play into the curriculum.

“Back when we rode the bus, I would always read to the kids,” Marilyn said. “I always thought I would be a teacher.”

Her first year at Northwest was her youngest daughter’s senior year.

“I didn’t take that job until I was sure she had an identity of her own,” Marilyn said. “I waited until she wouldn’t just be Mrs. Ramsey’s daughter.”

All four retired educators enjoyed the relationships they formed with students. Decades after retirement, they are still in touch with many of them.

“For me, it was about the kids,” Marilyn said. “I always enjoyed working with them.”

Warren joked that they liked everything about their careers, “except the salary.”

Mark pointed out that many teachers work during the summer or have second jobs after school to make ends meet. Both couples are grateful for Kansas’ pension system, even if they have not received a cost-of-living adjustment in more than 15 years.

Both the Ramseys and the Ritcheys said that education has changed so much since they retired that they aren’t sure what it’s like to be a teacher now. But one thing must be the same: It’s only a job for people who like children.  

“It was such a lovely life,” Gay said. “Dealing with people is always interesting, and in a classroom, you get to know people so well.”

And no matter how much things have changed, the need for education is a constant.  

“I think teaching is important,” Marilyn said. “Having good teachers is important.”

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