Gatlinburg-Pittman's Ruth Lewis retires after 42 years

May. 20, 2014 @ 06:56 PM

It was one dynamic that made every day special for Ruth Lewis in her 42 years of teaching at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School: the juxtaposition of how serious she was in her English classes and how much fun she tried to make her chorus classes.

"If I didn't have chorus, I don't know if I could put the energy into English, and vice-versa," Lewis said. "It's like the main course and dessert all through the day. And not just for me, I tried to make it that way for my students as well."

Lewis has not lost the love for her English and chorus classes. The reason for her retirement, she said, is simply that it feels like the right time. She plans to do a lot of travel in her retirement and build what she called a "hobby cabin" on some property she owns.

"I truly would go another 10 years — at least — if it wasn't time," she said. "I don't think there's any other job that could give me as much enjoyment as teaching, but I want to explore other things before I become so elderly that there's no options left for fun. The 40 years went by so fast that I just can't even believe that it did. It was just, all of a sudden, there it was."

Lewis was also discouraged about Common Core standards, which conflict with her teaching methods. She hopes a new teacher can find ways to reach students within the Common Core, but it is not something she wants to do at this point in her career.

"Teaching is an individual thing," Lewis said. "This takes the individuality out of it. They say you can keep doing the other things you want to do, in addition to the Common Core. But, no, you can't. So much time is devoted to standardized tests."

Principal Tony Ogle has a unique perspective of Lewis; not only has he worked with her professionally, he was her student when he attended Gatlinburg-Pittman.

"Being in her class was one of the highlights of my academic career," Ogle said. "Working with her as a coworker is an honor and a privilege. She's absolutely irreplaceable."

Lewis is concerned with what might happen to the props she has accumulated over the years in her classroom, which have been used in annual shows. Among the items are several World War II jackets. 

"If the new person wants to throw all that stuff out, just make sure it finds a good home," Lewis said.

Whoever the new teacher or teachers may be, Lewis is confident that they will be in a position to succeed.

"Gatlinburg-Pittman is a nice place to teach, and it's been great," she said. "There's a long legacy of academic success that I am proud of."

jold@themountainpress.com