WILLIAMS, Ariz. - After 23 years of teaching at Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS), fifth grade teacher Chris Mills recently completed her final school year.
With all of the changes happening in the education field including the new Common Core standards, Mills said she felt now was the right time to retire.
"I wasn't planning on working more than another year or two anyway so it just seemed like a good time to make my exit," she said.
Mills started her teaching career after she had kids and went back to school to finish her education degree, which she had started years earlier. She completed her student teaching at WEMS and then worked as a substitute there for a semester before administrators hired her as a fifth grade teacher.
Mills taught fifth grade for five years, sixth grade for five years, and seventh and eighth grade science for five years. After that she returned to teaching fifth grade.
Mills said she liked teaching at the elementary level the best.
"You get to know the kids, you bond with them," she said. "It's like a little family."
Although Mills said she enjoyed teaching all subjects, science and writing were two of her favorites.
"I really like teaching science the best because it's so much more hands on," she said. "I love teaching writing because the kids would share their writing and it's just so powerful. They're so expressive."
Some of Mills' favorite experiences outside of the classroom have been supervising the recycling program, the Odyssey of the Mind program and the Builders Club, which is similar to the Kiwanis Club.
Mills has several ideas of things to keep her busy during her retirement. First, she plans to travel to Montana and California to visit her grandchildren.
She'd also like to do more hiking, biking, and volunteering, and become more involved with music, since she plays several instruments including piano and guitar. In addition, Mills said she plans to become more involved with the local art scene, "because I am an artist wannabe."
Although Mills acknowledged that teaching is a challenging career, she said it has been very rewarding.
"It is a lifestyle-it's not just a job," she said.
One of the things Mills said she'll miss about her job is her coworkers.
"All the staff that work here are great, so I'll miss them a lot," she said.
However, Mills said the part she'll miss the most about teaching is her students and the everyday classroom moments like "just seeing the kids' faces light up when they get something."
"There's just something about that, seeing them grow up and having them come back into your classroom and being with them all day in the classroom," she said. "That just can't be beat."