Pursuit of Passion: Two retiring teachers to delve into the arts

Jacob Olson

June 11 is not the last day for just seniors.  This year, seven staff members—Gary DeTore, Karen Meadows, Virginia Ferguson, Becky Matsubara, Joe Hevera, Jackie Lucero, and Levi Hooks—will retire to pursue their passions, be with their families, and have new experiences.

The Bark sat down with two of these seven retirees to learn about their future plans.

Art teacher Karen Meadows has been working at Redwood for 21 years.  Prior to her service at the school, Meadows taught at Cascade Canyon Elementary School, an alternative school that her son attended. She then became an art therapist at Napa State Hospital, where she worked with troubled individuals who had experienced atrocities such as murder and abuse.

Aside from teaching, Meadows has applied her passion for art in several different occupations.

“I’ve had a hand-woven clothing business, I’ve made big art for public buildings, I’ve traveled to Europe and shown my work, and I feel like I need to take time out to really focus on my own art,” Meadows said.https://vimeo.com/130432007

Eighteen years ago, Meadows created the curriculum for a night class called Artist’s Voice and taught it alongside Susanne Maxwell and Liz Lauter.

“One of the best memories I have is Susanne [Maxwell] and I’m taking probably 60 kids on the ferry to San Francisco and then on the bus to the [Museum of Modern Art], herding [all the kids] like sheep and taking the day in San Francisco.”

Meadows said that she plans to pursue her profession and love for art after she retires.

“I’m going to India for a while to travel around and study the art of the small villages to see how that changes my life and my outlook,” Meadows said. “Going to India is my gift for myself for my retirement.”

When she comes back from India, she wants to continue creating encaustic art, a form of art that that involves shaping beeswax and pigmenting it different colors.  She also has considered continuing to teach.

“I always feel like I’ll be teaching again,” Meadows said.  “I’m not sure where it’ll be but I would like to teach maybe two days a week so that I have time to pursue my own art.”

Meadows isn’t the only teacher at Redwood retiring to pursue her passion for art.

English teacher Virginia Ferguson has been a teacher at Redwood for 14 years, and .  after she retires from Redwood, she is looking forward to pursuing her love for acting.

“I always wanted to act and it was my passion, so I went to England where my father was from and I studied acting,” Ferguson said. “I was there for about three years working for publishers and literary agents. I then went to New York and lived there for a couple of years and got some jobs off broadway plays and met my husband.”

[vimeo id=”https://vimeo.com/130430011″ size=”small” align=”left”]Ferguson then moved to Sydney, Australia and lived with her husband there for 20 years, acting for 10 of those years. After having her children, she went to the University of Sydney, obtained her teaching credential, and taught at a grade 7-12 all-boys school for four years. She then moved to California so that she and her family could be closer to her parents. Six months later, she found her job at Redwood.

“I think the greatest joy in teaching is when you can tap into some unknown talent of a student,” Ferguson said.  According to Ferguson, she had a student in her tenth grade English class a few years ago that she entered into a poetry contest called “Poetry Out Loud.”  She recalls that the moment she heard that he won the contest was a moment that she would never forget.When asked about her plans for the future, Ferguson said she hopes to return to some of the activities she did prior to teaching.

“I have an acting class and I want to do some voice acting myself, maybe be part of the Marin Community Theater. Also, I will be substitute teaching.”

Although Ferguson and Meadows both came to Redwood from incomparably different paths, both women look forward to pursuing their artistic passions throughout their post-teaching journeys.