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Teacher Retirement - Mrs. Lewis

                                                                                                   Photo submitted
By Supt. Cristina Wright


“Awesome teacher,”...“Very caring, she really listens,”…“She’s willing to come early or stay late to help me,”…“She helps me understand really complicated math and doesn’t get frustrated with me,”…“She texts me right back through Remind if I have a question.” These are just a few of the descriptions students share when asked about their experiences having Mrs. Tena Lewis as a teacher at Licking R-VIII School District. Finding a staff member who understands challenging math concepts AND has the patience to relay understanding to adolescents is a challenge in any school district, and Licking has been blessed to have had one of the best these past 24 years.
Mrs. Tena Lewis graduated from Salem High School in 1982, married as a senior to her husband, Ron, whom she met while working at Montauk State Park. Mrs. Lewis knew she wanted to work with numbers in her career, and after approximately 11 years of service with Rawlings Company, she began studying in the evenings for her degree in education and worked as a substitute teacher during the day, learning the craft. Mrs. Lewis went on to earn Summa Cum Laude honors as a graduate of Drury University. As a substitute, she remembers filling in for Mary Kimrey during her maternity leave with her son, Oren, and Suzie Blackburn when she had her son, Montana. In 1996, Mrs. Lewis earned her bachelor’s degree in education, and took over as fourth grade homeroom teacher. While a young mother, she continued her education and earned a Master’s degree from Southwest Baptist University in 2000. While Mrs. Lewis fondly remembers her elementary teaching years, she knew she wanted to continue her focus on mathematics and was excited to have the opportunity to move into fifth and sixth grade when retirement created an opening. After 13 years at upper elementary, she was hired to teach high school Algebra, where she has been devotedly serving for four years.
When Mrs. Lewis submitted her notice of retirement in late January, she had no idea her last year would end with distance-learning. In fact, she recalls taking classes at Drury when internet wasn’t available for student use. Since college, Mrs. Lewis has seen great technological advances in her career, and she is still excited to learn new ways to reach her students and help them solve challenging math problems, even though they are miles apart. Still, her vision of the close of her final year of teaching is vastly different from reality. “I miss interaction with the kids. I enjoy talking to each of them, and many of my students felt comfortable talking with me,” says Mrs. Lewis. “I could read the mood of my students when they would come into my classroom, and many days, we would chat briefly about life before we got on to math skills. Early dismissal really makes me miss those important moments in the day,” Mrs. Lewis reflects.
Mrs. Lewis can be seen walking daily in the community, and she and Mr. Ron Lewis recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary. Being a long-standing member of the community is a point of pride for Mrs. Lewis and for the district. “I believe it’s an advantage for students and for me. I have made connections with students’ parents over the years, and in some cases, I’m teaching the children of parents who had me as a teacher earlier in my career. Parents know my expectations and that builds a sense of trust between us,” says Mrs. Lewis. As her employer, we know she is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Often seen with her classroom light on before dawn and coaching students late into the evening, Mrs. Lewis believes in being a partner in raising young people in the community. “I loved being assistant high school volleyball coach, and it has been very disappointing missing track season as assistant coach for junior high track,” Lewis comments. “Staying active is an important part of my life and the lives of my family members, and I miss being outdoors helping students reach new personal goals.”
When asked about her plans transitioning into retirement, Mrs. Lewis says she has mixed emotions, but she knows she is very excited about spending more time with her three grandchildren; Tenlee (one-year-old), Knoxlee (age two) and Kyler (age eight). Always quick to share proud moments about her children, Chase, Colton, and Desiree, Mrs. Lewis says some of the greatest compliments she receives are those related to them. “Ron and I have worked with our children to be honest. If you say you are going to do something, do it. We’re very proud of each of them, and I look forward to being able to adjust my schedule for more family time in the near future,” says Mrs. Lewis. No doubt she will continue to be seen occasionally running errands for Lewis & Sons Service Station and working in her yard. We hope Mrs. Lewis will continue to stay connected with students as a substitute teacher and settle in on the sidelines of local sporting events.
While the final months of Mrs. Lewis’ teaching career have been anything but typical, we believe this is a fair match for a teacher who is anything but typical. Just as Mrs. Lewis misses her students, students and staff will miss her influence and friendly conversation. Whether in person, through email, texts, or phone calls, or by the track, she leads by example and can always be found doing just what she says she is going to do. We congratulate Mrs. Lewis on her retirement and thank her for 24 years of service to the district!

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