Aggie Geminder, who has taught at Country Day since 1998, is retiring. She has been the second grade assistant every year except for one, when she assisted kindergarten.
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
A: I grew up in (Warren), a small town in Minnesota. The choices for a woman growing up in a small town – I mean around 2000 people or so – was that you could become a secretary, you could become a nurse, you could stay home and get married, or you could go to college and try your hand at something else.
I had six siblings, and four of them were registered nurses. I knew I didn’t want to (become a nurse too), so I went to Moorhead State University (Moorhead, Minnesota) to become a teacher.
It ended up being the most wonderful choice I could have ever made. I’ve taught for a very long time, and I’ve never, ever gotten bored – I love working with kids and getting to see the lightbulbs in their eyes when they understand something.
After I graduated from college, all of the personnel directors from California were flying out to the Midwestern colleges to see if they could get teachers to come out to California because there was a big teacher shortage. So I and two other friends came out (to California) to teach.
I started teaching in Southern California, where I got married and had kids. I taught in that area for 30 years, although I did teach in Japan for two years.
After my husband died, I came up to the Sacramento area because my family was here and my two kids were at (University of California) Davis. I just needed some support at that time.
While I lived in Sacramento, I did a few long-term substitute teacher jobs at public schools.
Then, Barbara Ore called me and asked if I was interested in doing an instructional aide job for second grade. It was great because I didn’t really want to work full time, but I still wanted to work with children.
Q: What has kept you teaching for all these years?
A: I needed something to do, I have a lot of energy and I really love teaching. Besides the fun of it, economically, I needed to work.
Q: What do you like about teaching second grade?
A: I really like the curriculum they’ve developed. (The curriculum) teaches a lot of useful skills – life skills and intellectual skills – that they can use and practice.
In second grade, most of (the children) are already readers and writers. It’s fun seeing them use the skills they’ve learned and incorporating their personality into their writing.
Q: Do you have any favorite memories?
A: One of the things that I really loved about second grade was the insect project, especially now since the assignment has changed quite a bit.
The kids are now doing their reports online – they all have their own little laptops and everything. Although they write it out, the final draft is submitted on their iPads. I think that’s pretty sophisticated work for a second grader.
(And) I really love that our culminating activity for that project is visiting the entomology museum at UC Davis. The kids get to hold hissing cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes and all kinds of insects – it’s just a really great experience.
I think that one really wonderful thing that has happened in my time here is the Rwanda connection. It got me very interested in Africa, and I even went and visited Kenya and Tanzania three years ago. My trip there was (a) really wonderful, life-changing event for me.
Q: What do you plan on doing once you retire?
A: Well, I just had my 80th birthday, and my two eldest children bought me a piano. I’ve always wanted to play the piano, so I’m going to start taking piano lessons.
Since I live over by (Sacramento City College) and have an art minor, I’m also going to take some classes.
There’s just a lot of things that I haven’t done because I’ve been really busy with working and helping out with my grandchildren. It’s actually quite bittersweet – I’m looking forward to some new challenges at my age, but it’s also hard for me to leave Country Day.
Q: What will you miss about the school?
A: I really will miss the kids. (However,) I’ve made friendships here that I hope to continue after I leave.
It’s been fun teaching with these really great teachers – making friendships and watching them do a good job with kids.
Overall, working here has been a gift for me – a gift I’m very thankful for.