Gail Beck joked that she knew it was time to retire when she started getting the grandchildren of former students.
After 38 years at Whitefield Elementary School, Beck has taught several generations of students who, according to Principal Mark Deblois, “have had the beginning of their school experiences facilitated by her caring, generous, and enthusiastic nature.”
Beck’s influence on the Whitefield community was evident Friday, June 19, when students, parents, and faculty members participated in a drive-thru retirement celebration outside the school, congratulating her from their cars.
Josh Chase, who was a second grader in Beck’s first class at Whitefield Elementary, traveled from Portland to wish her well.
“I will definitely miss the veteran staff that I have taught with for so many of my 38 years,” Beck said.
She graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington in 1981 with a degree in elementary education and English. She was hired at Whitefield Elementary in 1982.
She spent much of her career working alongside first grade teacher Kathy Lamothe, second grade teacher Sarah Brewer, and ed tech Sue Peaslee, who were all at Friday’s celebration, as well as fourth grade teacher Mark Trask and bus driver and ed tech David Cote.
Beck said they were all in their 20s when they started working in Whitefield, and they all feel like family.
“We have been through so much together. This is a wonderful little school with a top-notch, resilient staff and community,” Beck said.
Brewer taught alongside Beck for 21 years, and she knows that her retirement will be a loss to the school.
“She is one of a kind,” Brewer said. “Her generous and caring soul, endless patience, dedication, and big heart have certainly made an impact on all her students and colleagues.”
According to Deblois, Beck was “an integral part” of the school and will be difficult to replace.
“She established roots within the community, building lasting and productive relationships with families and resources that benefited her and her students over her tenure,” he said. “Gail’s longevity was a reflection of her dedication, commitment, thoughtfulness, and good nature.”
The school staff presented Beck with a geocache, titled “Caching in My Retirement Pension,” in honor of one of her favorite hobbies, according to a post on the Whitefield Elementary School Facebook page. The geocache is on the Happy Farm River Trail in Whitefield.
In her retirement, Beck is excited to spend more time with her children and grandchildren, as well as traveling with her husband.