Thursday is the last day of school for Martin County students as they end the school year in an unconventional way. That impacts teachers too, especially those who are not only ending the school year virtually but also ending their careers that way.
Cindi Bocken teaches second grade at Warfield Elementary School in Indiantown. After 33 years of teaching, she decided in December that she would retire. She never imagined ending her career through a computer screen.
"This was a gift. Teaching was a gift to me, and it's real hard to walk away from your gift," said Bocken.
She spent the majority of her career teaching in Indiana. Bocken spent the last 11 years teaching at Warfield Elementary School. She said when she moved to Florida, she knew that school would be a perfect fit.
“When I walked into Warfield, I knew that was the place for me, I really wanted to make an impact the last part of my career. I knew I would finish my career there,” she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bocken had to quickly adapt to teaching her second-grade students virtually.
"Just trying to learn the virtual world in such short time, that was really challenging for someone my age, we didn’t grow up with technology," she said. "When I started teaching, we used blackboards and overhead projectors and slide projectors and now we’ve got smart boards and computers and printers where we had to use typewriters so I've seen the whole gambit. The hardest part has been learning everything fast and getting it out there and we've learned as we've gone on and we've cried and screamed sometimes, and we finished out the year."
However, Bocken said this time at home has helped her ease the transition to retirement.
"Being home kind of leads you into it slowly and now I'm kind of used to being home," she said. "I've been able to make that transition a little easier than teachers in the past, and so I try to look at it that way."
Bocken explained she does not feel robbed about retiring this way.
"It's kind of weird and anti-climatic, but you can't focus on what happened," she said. "You have to focus on what's coming up."
Like her fellow teachers, Bocken didn't know her last day in the classroom would be exactly that.
"It just felt like a regular day walking out," she said. "What I’m going to miss the most is the contact. Teaching is about relationships and not being able to hug my kids, to tell them have a good summer and I’ll miss them. Those kind of things make me sad but the thing I can remember is that I placed in their hearts that they can do anything that’s possible if they put their mind to it and work hard, and hopefully they’ll remember me for that."
Proving that for this lifelong educator, the teaching never stops.
"I know I've touched my kids' lives, and I've hugged them before and I'm gonna have to accept that's enough for now and maybe in the future, I'll be able to see them again."
According to Bocken, there are five teachers retiring this year at Warfield Elementary.
In her retirement, she plans to teach Sunday school and maybe work at a golf course.