For My Mom on Her Retirement

My mom recently retired from over 40 years of teaching. For most of those years, she taught Kindergarten. She’s the epitome of the perfect Kindergarten teacher – kind, nurturing, energetic, sing-songy, and able to hold a classroom of young children under her spell.

Did you ever have a teacher you loved? Really, deeply loved? One you drew pictures for, wrote notes to, one that made you feel special and talented in some unique way? My mom is that kind of teacher. She’s been that teacher for hundreds of students. She won’t even mention it or boast about it, but they seek her out years later to let her know what an impact she had on them.

Most of her students came from loving homes. To these students, my mom was a wonderful additional person in their village of caretakers and guides. She was the safe space they came to for their first full year of school, and after school, these children went home to parents who were present, kind, and loving. But inevitably, there were students who didn’t have a supportive village or a loving home to return to. To these students, my mom became their world. The one place they received the love and care they so desperately needed and deserved. The one person that saw them, saw their potential, and coaxed it out. The person who brushed their hair or buttoned their coat or washed their breakfast remnants off of their face or made sure they GOT breakfast.

I remember one such student. The way she would linger in the classroom, not wanting to leave, while all the other students rushed to get their bags at the end of the day. The way her eyes followed my mom everywhere. The way her hair often had tangles in it and her clothes were wrinkled and stained. I was young then, and a part of me sensed that she wanted my mom to be HER mom. A part of me felt threatened, jealous. But another part of me realized – without fully realizing – that she, in some ways, needed my mom even more than I did.

My mom wasn’t “just” a teacher – although that alone is a weighty role – she was so much more. To the students, and also to her colleagues. She brought enthusiasm, kindness, generosity, warmth, creativity, and boundless energy to every school she graced. I’d like to think I’ve imbued some of her qualities over the years. I’ll never have her patience – but I’ve definitely learned about kindness from my mom’s constant, daily example. I’ve learned about generosity and how joyful it can be to give, to share, to do for others. My mom always made it fun – she added pizzazz to the mundane, sometimes in the form of a sparkly ribbon, sometimes through a song or a costume or a story.

Gift-wrapping and interior decorating aren’t skills she managed to pass on to me, either, but I have learned about creating an atmosphere – how the look and feel of a place, an object, can uplift and inspire, can calm and soothe. My mom put her special touch on every classroom, every art project, every activity she created. She built a safe, fun, colorful container for learning, for growing, for becoming. I got the benefit of this at home, her students received it at school. She never stopped giving, never stopped creating magical spaces and special days for everyone around her.

My mother is a gift. She adds joy and sparkle and love and warmth wherever she goes. Childhood SHOULD be magical, it should feel safe and nurturing, and it should be fun. My mom created this kind of childhood not just for me and my brother, but for every child she taught. She did this with a smile on her face and going on 6 hours of sleep most nights. She spent a full day teaching and guiding a roomful of active children, and came home and read me stories. She fielded calls from anxious parents, stayed up late to prepare new activities or write progress reports, and still made it to every dance recital, show, awards ceremony, baseball game, etc. We never missed my mom. She gave her all, all the time. She not only taught me how to read and write, to be kind and to dream big – she taught me how to be a mom. And that’s something I’m not too modest to say I’m pretty darn good at! I have her to thank.

Mom, I love you. You have more than earned this retirement. I hope you’ll finally get to catch up on some sleep. I hope you won’t miss teaching too much. You’ve got some pretty cute grandkids who need your attention now, so that should keep you busy! But not too busy. Because now you get to do whatever the heck YOU want to do, AND I WANT YOU TO DO THAT!

You launched me into life fully believing that I can live my dreams. And I do. You get to live a new dream now, and I’m excited to see what it will be.

Thank you for being my first, best, and favorite teacher, Mom. I love you forever!!



Leah is a lifelong adventurer, exploring the world while home/road-schooling her son (though often he's schooling her). An experienced Reiki practitioner, she offers healing-and-action sessions, developing personalized roadmaps to help others connect with their own deepest wisdom and guidance, and claim a life of authenticity and joy.

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  1. Hi Leah! I am so blessed to know Kathy Forehand! She is all those things and more. She’s one of the kindest, nicest, most pleasant people I have ever known.
    This is such a beautiful tribute.
    Thank you Leah for that . It will mean so much to her! Happy retirement Kathy! Xo

  2. My son had your mom this year for her last year of teaching and I am so thankful we had the opportunity to know her. Such a treasure. She has planted a seed of learning that will continental to grow forever. Best wishes to you and Mark on your adventures.

  3. We love Mrs. Forehand! My son was in your mom’s class this year and we feel truly blessed beyond measure she was “our” teacher. My son told me just yesterday he already misses school. When I asked him why, he said because he loved learning with Mrs. Forehand. We hope your mom enjoys her retirement and we will always be thankful for her.

  4. I had the blessing of working with your mom at Cornerstone for the past 8 years. As much has she guided, loved, and nurtured her students, she did the same for her co workers. As a mighty co leader for our SonShine Committee, she made sure the staff at our school felt as amazing as her students. She was an incredible role model for everyone who crossed her path. Agreed, she should kick back and enjoy this time. She deserves it!

  5. Leah, what a sweet tribute to your mom. She is everything you have described her to be! I know she loves this tribute. There is no one like Kathy Forehand and I am so proud and privileged to call her a long time friend and colleague!

  6. Dear Leah,
    You wonderful mother and I became best friends in high school, and your tribute to her is perfect. She was ways the best of the best! Always kind, sweet, and caring, even when the rest of us were jerks! I always thought of her as “Snow White” in looks as well as actions! Yes you are blessed to have her as your Mom! She is one precious person!

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