‘I have done my part’

The end of the school year Thursday was very significant for teacher Karen Whinnie. That’s because it marked the end of her 42-year teaching career at East Fairmont High School.

Karen Whinnie is now in the first days of the rest of her life.

That’s because she has experienced her final day as a teacher — after 42 years, to be more precise. Forty-two years — all at East Fairmont High School.

Relatively few teachers spend their entire careers at one school as Whinnie has.

But the teaching career has been one that she has thoroughly enjoyed.

“I also did my student teaching at East Fairmont,” the Fairmont State grad said. “The only other place I ever taught was at Fairmont Senior during summer school.”

East Fairmont principal Tom Dragich, who is also retiring, said that Whinnie has been the chair for the school’s English department and “has been responsible for developing our outstanding English program.”

“She’s just done an outstanding job here and takes a lot of pride in reaching out to all the students,” Dragich said.

Whinnie thoroughly enjoyed her teaching career.

“The only regret I have is losing connection with the students. I have enjoyed all groups of students from the honor students ... the entire gamut.”

Whinnie said that each class has its own personality, and there has been something to like about all of them.

“Sometimes it takes a little longer to discover that particular personality,” she said.

“Different class periods have different personalities, also,” she said, pointing out that a class at 8 in the morning is so different from one at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

The move from the old East Fairmont High School to the new one in the early ’90s not only made her happy, “but it was an achievement that many of us had worked years for,” she said.

“We started seeing the need when we had our own children in school. Then we worked on committees for several years before the bond was passed.

“Then moving into the building was a great achievement!”

Whinnie described leaving the old building as being like “leaving your home. I had been in that building for 27 years. There were a lot of memories in that building, too.”

“There are a lot of things that I remember that students did and said and people you worked with who didn’t go along to the new building. ...”

Whinnie said she has seen many fine teachers come and go as well as fine administrators.

“I encounter former students wherever I go,” she said.

She said she had no regret when she closed her classroom door for the final time.

“I feel I have done my part and haven’t stepped on too many toes or have too many bad memories I’ve left behind.”

Whinnie’s education didn’t stop when she graduated from Fairmont State. She later picked up her master’s degree, plus 45 hours, at West Virginia University.

“Your education continues long after graduation if you’re a teacher,” she said.

Whinnie’s husband Robert is retired from the Martinka Mine. Their son Bobby works in Fairmont.

E-mail John Veasey at jcveasey@timeswv.com.

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