Teachers Close Lifelong Careers" />
The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Teachers Close Lifelong Careers

Sophomore Katy has been a student at Hockaday for six years. She has built strong relationships with many of her teachers. Lately, however, she has noticed that an unprecedented number of teachers are leaving her midst.

“It seems that recently, especially this year and last year, a lot of teachers have been retiring, especially beloved teachers who I have grown to have a relationship with,” Katy says.

She is right. Over the past two years, Hockaday has seen an unusually large number of faculty retirements.

Cathy Murphree, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs and Provost, explains that, “by the seniority of our faculty, it just ended up where we’re at a point where we have a higher percentage of our faculty who are close to retirement than [those who] are young.”

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She also believes that, “with the downturn of the economy, people who were thinking about retirement might have postponed it a year or two, so there’s probably a bit of that that makes it seem like more than usual.”

According to Murphree, “Hockaday teachers tend to stay here for a long time, because it is such a great place to teach. So we don’t have a lot of teachers who leave unless they retire.”

At the end of last year, five members of the Hockaday faculty retired. This year, additional faculty members will retire, including Constance Alexandre, Pat Coggan, Claudette Wolfe as well as Jeanne Whitman and Jeannie Laube whose retirements were addressed in previous issues of The Fourcast. Mary Louise Keever’s retirement came  too recently to be featured in this story.

Constance Alexandre

After the completion of 26 years of teaching French at Hockaday, Constance Alexandre says she is to retire.

“I didn’t want to be one of those [teachers] who stayed and had the girls say ‘Is she ever going to leave?,’” Alexandre explains, “I know when the right moment is. And it is the absolute right moment.”

Even so, her students will miss her.

“I loved how she greeted us every morning with a song in her voice. I will miss the song ‘Me Voici,’ the world’s best French rap,” says seventh grade French student Caroline.

“[Current students’] language is technology,” Alexandre says. “And I can do that, but it’s not my comfort level, and I have to struggle and work because I didn’t grow up with technology.” She feels that it is time for someone younger to take up the mantle.

Alexandre says that, after her departure, “Number one I will miss the girls.” She loves Hockaday because “every day is different and that is the number one reason I love teaching.”

Alexandre plans to take classes, become fluent in Italian, go back to her art studies, learn more about gardening and travel.

Her departing words of wisdom to the girls are, “Do something you love and you’ll never truly have a job. You’ll never have to work. You’ll always get to do something wonderful every day.”

Pat Coggan

After 35 years of ground-breaking work in the Hockaday lower school, Pat Coggan also plans to retire.

“I am going to have a big birthday,” she says. “I’m going to be 75. So I decided that it was time for me to hang up my chalkboard.”

Coggan is flattered when parents ask her to stay just one more year to continue teaching their children, but she says “I just can’t stay forever.”

Coggan began her career at Hockaday by substituting for six weeks for a middle school teacher.

“When the term was over, I thought I was toast, as they say, but the head of the lower/middle school at the time said ‘You can’t leave. We want you. You’re too good.’’’

Thus Coggan began her post at Hockaday, teaching Pre-K and kindergarten for six years. Eventually, she moved into third grade, and then on to fourth grade, where she has taught since 1987.

Her students are sad to see her go.

“She’s like my grandmother sort of,” says fourth grader Gabri, “She knows what you need to work on, and she’s strict in a good way.”

Fourth grader Catherine will miss Mrs. Coggan because “when you do something wrong, she’ll comfort you and tell you its okay.”

Coggan helped to transform the Hockaday lower school, initiating the Pre-K program, bringing the National Geographic Bee to Hockaday, organizing community service activities, and beginning the Happy Happenings after school care program.

In 1983, Coggan was recognized as a Hockaday Honorary Alumna.

Upon her retirement, Coggan plans to help write the Texas Almanac each year, work to restore Texas forts and missions, and write a children’s story about Hockaday for younger students.

“I’ve had a really good experience at Hockaday, and I’m sure I’ll miss parts of it, but I am looking forward to seeing my friends again. They’re excited that I’m going to be available,” she says.

Claudette Wolfe

When she came to Hockaday in 1973, first grade teacher Claudette Wolfe says that she left a job and found a career.

This year marks Wolfe’s 50th year in teaching.

“To reach that milestone and still love what you are doing is really something that I would wish for everybody,” she says.

“[Hockaday] is a hard place to leave, so I don’t know that I’d ever find the right time, the perfect time.”

Eugene McDermott Headmistress Jeanne Whitman praises Wolfe’s “gentle voice, steely nerve and abiding affection for the girls,” which has contributed greatly to her success as a teacher.

The thing first grade student Riley will miss most about Mrs. Wolfe is “her laugh” and reading with her.

Wolfe has received numerous honors while teaching at Hockaday, including recognition as an Honorary Alumna in 2000 and being named as a finalist for the Ellen Higginbotham Rogers Award. According to Whitman, she was described in her nominations for the Rogers Award as “a seasoned educator who puts all of her students in big pots where they can grow.”

Whitman says that, “The ‘big pots’ are her high expectations and the independence she expects of her girls.”

Upon retiring from Hockaday, Wolfe plans to continue her volunteer work at Kids Court, help with the Hockaday centennial, and write a book about her teaching experiences.

According to Murphree, students will continue to see the retired teachers on the Hockaday campus. She explains that after teachers leave, many of them continue to substitute teach, and they return each Christmas for the holiday party.

Murphree is working hard to help recruit new teachers to fill the positions of the retirees. Hockaday searches nationwide to find just the right candidate. She says, “It’s bittersweet to lose people, but it is also exciting to talk to some people who really want to come to Hockaday.”

Even so, Murphree is sad to see beloved members of the Hockaday faculty depart.

“It’s pretty amazing to think of how much of their lives they gave to teaching Hockaday girls,” she says.•


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