Teaching The Art of Retirement

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After 29 years of service in the Harford County Public School System, Christine Tolbert retired, but her dedication to education and her community continued to grow. Ms. Tolbert taught in elementary school for years before becoming a high school Guidance Counselor and eventually a Supervisor of Instruction at the elementary level.

She treasured the chance to watch children of all ages grow and develop. “I really enjoyed teaching 5th graders because they are so full of inquiry at that age. They still have the eagerness of younger children, but they are capable of thinking analytically and holding adult conversations,” she relates. As a counselor, she was inspired by “the opportunity to help young people discover themselves and build their self-esteems.”

Ms. Tolbert joined the Harford County Retired Personnel Association shortly after retiring. She laughs as she recalls her first meeting: “I went to an informational session entitled ‘Driving over 50!,’ and I was thinking ‘If the speed limit is 50, why would anyone want to drive over 50?'” She continues, “Obviously, I really didn’t feel like I belonged initially, but as I became more involved I realized how important the organization is as a watchdog for retired personnel and how helpful some of the informational sessions are. I also enjoy the camaraderie among members, and I ultimately became president of the association.”

The Harford County Retired Personnel Association is an affiliate of the Maryland Retired Teacher’s Association (MRTA). MRTA serves as an advocate for and provides expanding services to members. The organization is also dedicated to excellence in education, life-long learning, and community service.

In addition to her involvement with MRTA, Ms. Tolbert has been integral in the restoration and preservation of the Hosanna School-the first school in Harford County for African Americans, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places and now serves as a museum and showcase for living history presentations. Ms. Tolbert has been the Executive Director of the project since 1980.

While completing this volunteer work, Ms. Tolbert became increasingly curious about the history of Berkley, MD. She and a colleague and friend, Constance Beims, were able to obtain a grant from the Maryland Historic Trust to conduct oral interviews with people who grew up in Berkley and were 65 or older. The two later collaborated on A Journey Through Berkley, Maryland, a book that weaves together their transcripts into a story that is accessible and enjoyable for readers. The book received a favorable review from the Baltimore Sun and has the distinction of being “the only Harford County history that highlights the history of both blacks and whites,” explains Ms. Tolbert.

Ms. Tolbert received the NRTA’s “With our Youth” award in 2003; the NRTA is AARP’s Educator Community, and “With Our Youth” is an honor bestowed on individuals who have performed exceptional volunteer services in retirement.

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