After 30 years in the classroom, it can be tough to get that retirement letter down on paper. Keep your audience in mind because your letter may be read aloud at a meeting of the faculty or board of education. In some cases, it may even appear in a school district publication. It's easy to get sidetracked and tell the story of your entire career. Instead, focus on keeping the right tone and sticking to the essentials.
Set the Appropriate Tone
Adopt a relaxed and conversational manner. At the same time, it’s important to remain professional. Think of the tone you would use in interviewing for a job.
A one-page letter is a suitable length for a retirement letter. With all the memories and experiences, any retiring teacher has enough material for a book, but a retirement letter should be concise. Announce the date when the retirement will be effective, make acknowledgements where appropriate, and, optionally, include a brief overview of one’s teaching career in the school or district.
It is certainly appropriate to express thanks in your retirement letter, but be specific. For example, “I would like to thank Principal Wilson for his constant support of the theater program here at Nelson High. He came up with needed funds, encouraged kids to audition for shows and showed up at every performance.”
Avoid the temptation to turn your retirement letter into a list of improvements you would like to see. Because you will no longer be in a position to affect any changes, it is really not appropriate to suggest them. Such suggestions can only detract from what could otherwise be a tranquil retirement message.
Keep the Door Open
Retired teachers sometimes decide to return to teaching or take other positions in the district. Consider including in your retirement letter a statement such as: “Perhaps our paths will cross again in the future. For one thing, I know I’ll be buying tickets for the faculty pie toss at next year’s carnival.”
Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.