GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Geni Sackson, a Ridgewood Avenue Elementary School fifth-grade mathematics teacher, will be retiring at the end of this school year. It is her 19th year as a teacher and her 14th in the district. She said it felt good to go now, 19 being a whole number and all.
“I just feel curious about the rest of the world, and art and music,” she said earlier this week at the school.
A choral singer in New York City, Sackson said she would like to expand on that experience and study watercolor painting.
Before receiving her teaching certification from William Paterson University in 1992, she worked as an audio producer with Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. When he died in 1991, she knew that that work was over for her.
“He was the heart and soul of the characters,” she said. “I knew it would take time to figure out what to do without Jim. While they were figuring out what to do, I was freelancing in audio production.”
But she had a son in kindergarten at the time, too.
“How they were teaching him was great to me,” she said. “I wanted to learn about that.”
So she did. And until four years ago, when she became a one-subject teacher, Sackson had the opportunity to use music and song as a way to connect a student to her teaching. With mathematics, there is less opportunity for that, but Sackson said she has plenty of creative ideas on how to teach.
“I’m going to miss my children very much,” she said. “They’re very open. They’re not closed up yet. You really get to know everyone.”
Technology, she said, has changed teaching and maybe people, too, redirecting them from a communal life of face-to-face communication.
“We have a lot of technology now that may not be good for people to develop people skills,” she said. “Or to learn right from wrong, know where the line is. I fear for a child who spends all day on a computer, not making eye contact or getting involved in another person’s life.”
Sackson will be singing at an upcoming, mile-long opera to be performed on the High Line, a linear park on the west side of Manhattan. With her husband already retired, Sackson said she is ready to be as irresponsible as she wants.