National Teacher Day is May 5, and at Woodlands in Huntington, you could fill a classroom to capacity with the former educators calling this community home. We’re home to more than 40 retired schoolteachers and professors from Huntington-area grade schools, colleges and universities. It’s no coincidence that so many former educators live here at this friendly community: Living at Woodlands, one of the top retirement communities in West Virginia, is simply a smart choice.
To learn a bit more about why so many teachers choose Woodlands after they’re done with the world of chalkboards, textbooks and recess, we spoke with three Woodlands neighbors who each spent decades in the classroom and years at Woodlands. Sally Michel, Minnie Valentine and Charla Hardy are all former elementary schoolteachers who taught in different areas throughout the tri-state, yet their varied paths brought them all here to Woodlands. Let’s get to know them!
Meet Sally: Cabell County connections
Although Sally Michel spent her first few years after college teaching in Wheeling, West Virginia, she taught most of her career—more than 15 years—at Davis Creek Elementary School, just southeast of Huntington in Cabell County.
“We moved here to Huntington, and when I went back to work after having our first child, I saw in the paper that I got assigned to Davis Creek [Elementary School]. So, we hopped in the car and found where it was. It was about a 15-minute drive on Route 10 from our house on Norway Avenue.”
Sally taught first grade, and said she loved teaching “the little first graders.”
“I got these children when they were so young and green,” Sally shared. “And I loved it because as they say, ‘green will grow.’”
Just as she helped her students grow as they began their education, Sally grew in her teaching role and taught at Davis Creek for 16 years. After she retired, she continued to contribute to students’ lives by mentoring and assisting special-needs learners. Sally also joined the Cabell County Retired Teachers Association (CCRTA) and eventually became its president.
“When I was president of the CCRTA,” Sally said, “Rev. Gray Hampton asked me if he could speak to the CCRTA.”
She obliged, and Rev. Hampton shared information about Woodlands, which at the time was a fairly new Continuing Care Retirement Community (or CCRC) in Huntington.
During the presentation, Sally noted how Rev. Hampton said that “you’re never really ready” to move to a place like Woodlands. That’s what motivated Sally and her husband to make their proactive move without waiting.
“They had one lot left, so we decided to build our own cottage there,” Sally said. “My husband was so glad and at peace with our choice. He’d say, ‘We’ve done the right thing; where else would you rather be?’”
Sally said that she can’t believe that she has already been at Woodlands for 14 years—for nearly as long as she taught kids at Davis Creek Elementary School. And when speaking with Sally, it’s obvious this teacher would give Woodlands an A+.
“Woodlands works so hard to keep everyone happy,” she said. “I’ve made friends, I go to exercise classes five times a week, and there are also so many amenities. Everyone is so helpful. I’m happy to spend the rest of my days here.”
Meet Minnie: Recognizing quality leadership
Minnie Valentine taught elementary school in Cabell County for 27 years. In that time, she taught nearly every elementary grade and taught at schools in Huntington’s Highland area, Pea Ridge area and at Nichols Elementary School near the Huntington Mall.
With this broad range of grade level experience and varied school environments, Minnie came to appreciate good leadership. Over the years, and with all that is expected of teachers, Minnie’s appreciation for quality school administration grew.
“I had good principals at every place I went,” she said. “Having a good administration and a supportive principal makes a big difference.”
“I think the thing I appreciated most was my first principal,” she said. “I was young when I graduated from Marshall and started teaching, and I hadn’t yet had a lot of hands-on experience. About a month into my first year, our principal wanted to help me truly understand where my students came from, so he took me on a number of home visits,” Minnie shared. “That was really enlightening.”
It’s safe to say that Minnie knows good leadership when she sees it. And she’s seen it at Woodlands, where she has lived since late 2017 in her customized residence.
“Just like at the schools where I taught, the administration here is excellent,” Minnie said. “They are very friendly and know us by name. It just makes you feel welcome and a part of the community.”
Making Minnie feel even more welcome are the friends she has here—friends who originally encouraged her to make Woodlands her home.
“A few of my good friends moved to Woodlands and thought it would be such a great place for me to be,” she said. “Without worries about the house or the future. They were right!”
Meet Charla: No need to wait
After teaching fourth grade for 30 years just across the Ohio River at Fairland East Elementary School in Proctorville, Ohio, Charla Hardy retired and spent several years substitute teaching and tutoring. And although she enjoyed the post-retirement work and keeping her connection to the classroom, she decided to make a proactive move to Woodlands—sooner rather than later.
“I could have waited,” Charla explained. “But I knew that the longer I waited, the tougher it would be for me to make the move. And if I waited too long, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy independent living at all.”
So, she didn’t wait. Charla moved to Woodlands in 2015—at 65 years old—after deciding that it would be a good move for three key reasons: she would get guaranteed help in the future if she needed it; she would not become a burden to her siblings; and she would no longer need to take care of the upkeep on her house.
By moving when she did, Charla has been able to fully immerse herself in the joys of an active retirement community lifestyle.
“I didn’t know many people here at first,” she said. “But I got involved right away, made a lot of new friends, and I’ve fully taken part in the Woodlands experience.
“Here, you can immerse yourself in the activities as much as you like. I’ve been on the food committee, a hall representative, a bingo caller, and I love using the new wellness center and exercise rooms,” Charla added.
Just like teachers advise students to not wait too long to start on their assignments, Charla would advise fellow seniors to not wait too long to move to a place like Woodlands. With all this place has to offer, there’s simply no need to wait!
On National Teacher Day and during Teacher Appreciation Week, we recognize how teachers improve the lives and futures of every student they teach. At Woodlands, we’re humbled to be home to dozens of former educators who have made lifelong impacts on the children and adults who have passed through their classrooms. If you would like to learn why so many retired educators—beyond Sally, Minnie and Charla—have decided to call Woodlands their home, simply click here to get in touch or call 304-697-1620 today.