As the school comes to an end, students anticipate festivities like final concerts, proms, sports, and graduation. As the school year traditions reach their climax, it’s a time to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to the endless possibilities that the future holds. For some teachers/administrators, the end of this school year will close one chapter in their lives as they seek retirement.

Retirement marks the end of a chapter filled with countless memories, challenges overcome, and lives touched. As these teachers/administrators bid farewell to the school halls they’ve walked for years, they leave behind a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come. The impact of their dedication and passion for education will continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of students long after they’ve left the classroom.

A recent article from the Portland Press Herald caught my eye while scrolling Facebook – Gary Stevens to step down as Thornton Academy Athletic Director in July. Going back to read the article, I wondered how this could be possible; is Mr. Stevens even old enough to retire? Having graduated from MSAD#6 and spent several years as an educator at Bonny Eagle High School (BEHS) in my early 20s, I knew Mr. Stevens as a teacher and later as a colleague.

During my second year teaching at BEHS, a memorable encounter unfolded one afternoon when Mr. Stevens then BEHS Athletic Director, entered my classroom with a determined expression. He informed me that the boys’ tennis coach had resigned, and despite efforts, there was no replacement. Aware of my tennis background, he asked if I was interested in coaching. As a young female teacher without coaching experience, I hesitated. However, when Mr. Stevens was determined to help students, nothing could deter him. He explained the coach’s responsibilities, the impact tennis could have on the boys, and his concern that without a new coach, the boys’ tennis program might cease. As I was absorbing all of this, Mr. Stevens had strategically placed a group of teenage boys outside my classroom. Their faces were pressed against the door window, gazing at me with big puppy dog eyes. Reluctantly, I accepted the role of coaching the boys’ tennis team.

Throughout my coaching journey, Mr. Stevens provided unwavering support. Regardless of how many sports were playing games at once, he made sure to watched at least 20 minutes of every home match. He provided words of encouragement on match days and post-match feedback to my players while passing them in the school halls, bosting the boys’ spirits. Over the next few years, we transformed from a team of novice players struggling with the basics into serious contenders within the division. Some of my most cherished memories as an educator stem from the days spent on the tennis courts with those boys while Mr. Stevens was in the background cheering us on.

A quote from Mr. Stevens in the Portland Press Herald article deeply resonated with me – good leaders find ways to serve others, lift others, and help others. For the past four decades, Mr. Stevens has embodied this philosophy. Throughout his tenure as an educator and athletic director, Mr. Stevens consistently demonstrated fairness, earning widespread respect. He prioritized doing what was right over what was easy or popular, staying true to his clearly defined values. He preferred to be respected than liked, which made him even more likeable because you always know where you stood with him.

Mr. Stevens’ dedication, kindness, and unwavering commitment will be deeply missed. His presence was a constant source of support and inspiration to all students participating in after school activities. As the lights dim on this chapter, the memories and impact of individuals like Mr. Stevens will continue to shine bright in the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate enough to know him.

Kindness is doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.