Winter break and the holidays mark a new beginning for some teachers in the San Diego Unified school district who are retiring early -- at mid-year. For them, Friday was their last day.
Pre-K teacher Kathy Burchett said she is retiring early with mixed emotions. She never thought she would retire at the age of 55, but the pandemic hit, the district offered early retirement with a health care package, and Burchett has asthma.
"When I get sick, I get really, really sick and end up usually having to go on a breathing treatment … it's pretty bad,” Burchett said.
Burchett said she's grateful to the district for offering early retirement to teachers and other employees at this time.
“I feel happy for new beginnings and sad that I'll miss all my little students, teaching and watching that light bulb go off," Burchett said. "It’s the best part of teaching.”
After 25 years of teaching, Burchett received a big send-off, including a retirement video from students at Ocean Beach Elementary School where Burchett has taught for seven years.
“It made me bawl ... it was bittersweet," Burchett said. "It's very bittersweet.”
Besides health concerns, Burchett said Zoom fatigue played a role in her decision.
“There is no downtime," Burchett said. "Your eyes are darting to each student to make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do. It’s like being a new teacher.”
Burchett started teaching at San Diego Unified when she was 30 years old. She had wanted to be a teacher since she was 5.
“I wanted to teach young children, watch that spark, that beautiful light go off in their eyes when they get it, when you see them get it,” Burchett said. “In your teacher’s heart, it is just so full, and that's what makes teaching so worth it.”