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Virginia Journal of Education

On Point


Schools Need Our Retirees
By R. Edward “Eddie” Fifer

To be, or not to be—“retired.” That is the question.

When VEA members retire from their school system, leaving their classrooms and school buildings behind, do they really retire? When most people think about retirement, images of traveling, lying on the beach, or relaxing around the house come to mind. That may be the case for some, but not for many retired educators. With a large number of teachers retiring in their early or mid-fifties, many need to find other employment until Social Security kicks in. Some become substitute teachers or coaches.  Others find jobs outside the school system, such as selling automobiles, working in retail, or even working at country club golf courses (like me) or in the parks and recreation departments.

For retirees who don’t need that additional income, there are many opportunities to continue to serve their local schools and students.  Some still substitute teach, but others volunteer their professional services as tutors, mentors, teacher aides, lunch room monitors, and sponsors of clubs and afterschool programs. There are lots of ways we can still contribute.

There are also many opportunities for retirees on the political front.  "Every educational decision is a political decision" is not just a saying, it’s a reality. VEA has always been a leader in building support for public education, and retirees can offer their services here, too. Participating in a phone bank, stuffing envelopes for a mailing, and attending rallies are just a few ways retirees can help support candidates who support public education. Some retirees even enter the political arena themselves and run for public office. Our members have served on school boards, boards of supervisors, city councils, and even as state legislators.

Regardless of the path taken at retirement, many of the same reasons for joining VEA are still viable. "Once a professional, always a professional," VEA-R’s slogan, is not just an expression. Being a professional educator does not change at retirement. Our members have dedicated their careers to educating children and retirement doesn’t mean we no longer wish to help VEA in its mission to promote and protect public education.

Being a professional also means becoming a VEA-Retired member. Retired membership has many of the same opportunities and benefits as active membership, including the great products and savings available through the NEA Member Benefits program. There’s also liability coverage for work in schools, and there is more insurance coverage for older members. If you already have some insurance through NEA Member Benefits, those low rates continue for retired members. Publications, like this magazine, continue to arrive, with retired publications added.  VEA-R members may serve on VEA committees, lobby in Richmond on VEA’s Lobby Day or on one set aside for VEA-R, or run for a retired delegate seat at the VEA and NEA conventions. Retired members can be as active as they want to be and receive all of the benefits that come with membership.

A good way to ensure that your membership benefits continue into retirement is to pre-join VEA-Retired while still an active member. To become a lifetime pre-retired member, all you need to do is fill out a retired membership form and pay the discounted pre-retirement rate. Then, when you retire from full-time work as an educator, you’re automatically transferred over to the retired list. By pre-joining, the member pays nothing more.  Even if the price has gone up several times before they retire, they still enter VEA-Retired for the price they previously paid. You can pre-join by contacting your local president, UniServ office, VEA headquarters, or on the VEA  website (

I retired 11 years ago and, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem that most VEA members truly retire—they just go in a different direction. Many times their direction leads back to what they have spent their professional lives doing, promoting public education. For many educators, dedication to the children and their profession continues long after they stop going to school every day.  "Once a professional, always a professional."

Fifer, a former physical education teacher in Washington County, retired in 2002 and is currently a VEA-R representative on the VEA Board of Directors and a member of the VEA-R Council.


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