Retiring teachers, staff say goodbye to Bak

This spring, Lisa Hanser, Benjamin Baxley, Janet Karvonen, and Robert Bauer will retire from Bak, leaving behind past experiences and memories.

“My favorite part [of teaching] is just seeing the excitement on students’ faces when they get what a culture is really about,” Janet Karvonen, sixth grade world history teacher, said.

Some of the retiring staff have worked at Bak since it opened, almost 19 years ago, and most have been teaching for years before that.

“In 1997, I saw an article in the newspaper about the school,” Lisa Hanser, seventh grade civics teacher, said. “I was so excited and applied right away.”

Before settling in their current positions, the staff held some other titles and taught different subjects.

“I began as a college teacher that taught how to teach children’s theater,” Benjamin Baxley, sixth grade arts exploration teacher, said. “And that’s what I’ve been doing at Bak for 12 years.”

No matter why they plan to leave, the staff has simple advice for the teachers taking their place.

“[My advice is] make sure that the arts come first and remember to enjoy the kids,” Robert Bauer, assistant principal, said.

Hanser earned her degree for middle school curriculum in Charlottesville, Virginia. She later moved to West Palm Beach and taught at Conniston Middle School.

“When I taught at Conniston, all types of different incidents occurred,” Hanser said. “At Bak, nothing like that ever happened.”

Like most retiring teachers, Hanser has ideas of what she would like to do after leaving Bak.

“It would be nice to do volunteer work at Animal Care and Control, there are many great opportunities there,” Hanser said.

Baxley has had past experience in the performing arts and teaching theater, and would like to work in that industry after he retires.

“Twenty years ago, I had a young man and woman in a play,” Baxley said. “They started a theater called Dramaworks, and I’ll be working there.”

While working in theater at Bak, Baxley had many memorable experiences.

“We were doing a show called ‘A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine,’ and the students who performed were so amazing that I forgot they were just 14 years old,” Baxley said. “That was one of the most amazing feelings I ever had.”

Karvonen was one of the original teachers on the Bak campus. When she started teaching, she was involved in the arts.

“What I loved about the original school was that every teacher was in the arts, so they could relate to the students. I was a dancer, specifically ballet,” Karvonen said.

Bauer, too, had former arts experience. He had taught at Bak for 15 years.

“[When I retire] I’ll probably get back to painting and making artwork,” Bauer said.

With this school year coming to an end, new teachers and staff will take their places in the 2016-17 school year.