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Camden teacher calls it a career
KINGSLAND -- When Martha Beard began her teaching career 38 years ago in South Carolina, her classroom didn't have air conditioning, home computers didn't exist and students still knew how to read cursive writing.

The Camden County High School teacher has more years in the classroom than any school district employee retiring this year.

Instead of preparing her classroom for the upcoming summer vacation, Beard spent Wednesday stacking teaching supplies, old textbooks, CDs and manila envelopes packed with suggested classroom activities for different books assigned to students on desks. The items will be offered to her soon-to-be former co-workers to pick through.

Beard reminisced about her time as an educator as she stacked the items on desks and emptied file cabinets. She said she has always taught high school English, first for 24 years in North Carolina and South Carolina, before retiring. Then, when she and her husband moved to Fernandina Beach 14 years ago, she resumed her teaching career at Camden.

Her favorite class to teach is American Literature, which is offered to Camden students in their junior year. Beard said the students are at the perfect age to learn to appreciate the subject.

"Juniors might think they still have a thing or two to learn," she said. "Seniors already think they know it all, and they are ready to graduate."

Technology has changed the way students tackle classroom assignments with their growing dependence on electronic devices for information. She's noticed students tend to choose the thinnest books for book reports.

"Students are more technologically advanced now," she said. "At the same time, they are intimidated by the size of a book. If they're not entertained immediately, they don't want to read it. My job is to keep them engaged long enough to appreciate it."

And some students say they can't read cursive writing nowadays. Beard said she has heard cursive writing isn't taught in some school districts anymore.

Beard said she doesn't agree with an 11th grade test that requires students to write essays by hand, saying students are accustomed to communicating electronically.

"Technology makes all our lives easier," she said. "The bad thing is kids think they can't live without it."

But some things haven't changed when it comes to students.

"Kids are still amazingly resilient and optimistic," she said. "They are so much forward looking."

There are fewer racial incidents among today's students. When there are conflicts, they are usually personality driven, she said.

Beard said she is being low-key about her pending retirement by design. Very few students knew about her retirement plans.

"I told them I'd be graduating with them," she said. "I chose not to make a big deal out of it."

Beard said she is certain this retirement will be the last. She has plans to travel, sail, dance and spend time with her family.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at and at 464-7655.

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