Schotka to retire after 42 years in Bloomfield School District

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Longtime Bloomfield teacher Susan Schotka has retired.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Susan Schotka, a physical education teacher, retired last week after 42 years with the Bloomfield School District. In her long career, Schotka taught at every elementary school in the district except Franklin and Oak View; at South Junior High School; and, for the last 36 years, at Bloomfield High School. In addition to physical education, she taught health and driver’s education and, at one time or another, coached softball, volleyball, basketball, field hockey and bowling. She was also involved with the Special Olympics at Forest Glen for several years.

Schotka grew up in Bloomfield on Spruce Street; she attended St. Valentine’s Elementary School, North Junior High School and BHS as a member of the Class of 1976. She received her Bachelor of Arts in physical education from Montclair State University, where she played softball and basketball. Also from MSU, she earned her teaching certificate, a master’s degree in adaptive physical education for special education students and a master’s degree in administration.

“It was just in me to be a teacher,” she said. “I didn’t have to think about it too much. I did physical education because the Catholic schools didn’t have it; no music or art either, just the basics. And I was such an active kid. I’m glad I grew up when I did. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood and you made your own fun. We’d just go out to the streets and play night tag, running bases or riding our bikes.”

Schotka, who has three brothers, was the first one in her family to attend college — an achievement, she said, that was a source of pride for her parents. As a working teacher, Schotka said she endeavored to always be organized and prepared when she walked into the classroom.

The importance of physical education, in Schotka’s estimation, has only increased.

“The kids today aren’t active when I look at them compared to when I started,” she said. “I find the kids today, to be honest, are lazy. Also, the kids nowadays don’t know how to come to an agreement in a dispute in a game. In the past, they’d flip a coin and continue the game.”

As a coach, Schotka also saw the results of a decrease of physical activity. In the past, she said, there were good players and average players from which to select a team. But nowadays, the number of average players has decreased dramatically. 

“There is no middle ground,” she said. “If you look at the kids now and their body weight, they’re heavy because they’re not active. They walk into school with specialty drinks everyday; the frappuccinos with all the whipped cream and the sugar content is unbelievable.” 

Consequently, for Schotka, gym class is essential to provide children with the opportunity to socialize and exercise. Elective gym classes have expanded opportunities to include activities such as yoga, Frisbee, dance, weight training and badminton. Health classes have also changed.

“We have to talk more about human sexuality,” she said. “Sexually transmitted diseases were a big change. The family unit has changed drastically. A lot of 12th-graders think they can go out, get an apartment and everything will be good.”

Schotka also taught her health class students budgeting, handling car expenses and independent living.

She is retiring now because there are other things she would like to do.

“I want to travel, and I have my health on my side,” she said. “I can be here, at the high school, forever. They always asked if I wanted to stay. But I want to do things without a time frame to it. I’ve done Europe but would like to go back. But I have to see what goes on with this war in the Ukraine. Right now, I’ll stay in the United States.”

Schotka called the teaching position she is leaving “a great spot to be in,” but for anyone thinking about becoming a teacher, her opinion is not rosy.

“People can’t survive on the salary,” she said. “That’s the only reason I would not tell anyone to go into teaching. I’d say go into physical therapy, where you can get out on your own. But I’ve had a great career and a lot of fun. I’m still in contact with students from the high school classes of 1993 and 1995. I was the class adviser for both years. They were hard-working kids. Now, they’re all over the United States. They’ve succeeded.”