Sherry Osborne said she will try to treat her final departure from Room 215 of North Laurel High School like any other day, even though it will be preceded by a breakfast with her coworkers where she will say her last goodbyes as a full-time teacher.
Osborne, 55, is retiring after 24 years of teaching Spanish and business to students in Laurel County. Despite her sometimes rapid speech cadence and her affection for words, Osborne has a true passion for “serving quietly behind the scenes.”
“Hopefully I’ll live a good, fruitful life and continue serving the Lord,” Osborne said on her post-retirement plans. Osborne said she was called into teaching by God and believes this, along with her numerous mission trips and local volunteering, has been her way of serving him.
Osborne was just named the London - Laurel County Chamber of Commerce's High School Teacher of the Year earlier this year.
Osborne said she can’t have kids, but she seems to talk about her students like they are her own, even referring to them as “my kids” and saying that they are what she will miss most about coming to work every day.
“You get so close to them,” Osborne said as she was fighting back tears. “You hear their problems and you want to take them away, get them away from their problems but you can’t.”
Osborne said she will miss her coworkers at North Laurel just as much as her students.
“My colleagues are like family too. If something happens we’re there for each other,” Osborne said.
Garrison Burchell teaches in a classroom near Osborne and had her as his own teacher when he went to North Laurel before graduating in 2013.
“The main thing about her is that she cares about every single kid no matter what,” Burchell said. “She is literally the most giving, the most kind-hearted person I’ve ever met and I could not have been more blessed to be across the hall from her during my first two years of teaching because she has been a great mentor to me as a teacher.”
Burchell said he has known Osborne for around 10 years and feels sorry for the students who won’t get to have Osborne as a teacher because of her attitude.
“The definition of positivity is Sherry Osborne,” he said.
Osborne loved teaching both Spanish and business because her students were learning skills that were nearly guaranteed to be applicable when they got older, and sometimes as soon as they learned them.
Teaching business allowed Osborne to educate students skills like how to balance a checkbook, pay bills and budgeting.
When teaching Spanish, she was able to not only give students the skills of a new language, but also educate them about new cultures. She said it can help combat racism and make younger people more open-minded in general.
“Educating is the key with a lot of cultures,” Osborne said, later adding, “That breaks down those barriers.”
If Osborne was teaching students about a Hispanic holiday and there was a student in the classroom from another culture, then she would ask them what holiday they’re familiar with that is similar to the one being taught. It’s this type of inclusivity that makes all students feel valued.
Osborne believes that everyone in the United States should make their best effort to be bilingual.
She said if an immigrant is coming to the country, then they should try to learn English, but Americans should also try to learn Spanish to enhance communication. She believes this especially applies to firefighters, EMTs, and police officers because of how often they deal with emergencies.
Osborne isn't ruling out the possibility of being a substitute teacher later on, but it isn't something she feels pressed to do soon. She wants to get involved even more involved with her church and work with the elderly, teens and children, continue to stay involved with Cooperative Community Care and keep up her monthly volunteering at the homeless shelter.
Osborne plans to travel to Israel in November for 11 days with her church, intending to be baptized in the Jordan River years after she was originally baptized in McKee Baptist Church in Jackson County as a child.
“That’s kind of my retirement gift to myself,” Osborne said.
Before she goes on this journey, though, she will have to undergo a left knee replacement in early June and then have eye surgery later that same month.
Even with these complications, Osborne said she is blessed to be healthy and retire with benefits.
Her retirement was in jeopardy, along with an abundance of other teachers across Kentucky, as Governor Matt Bevin’s pension plans threatened to derail teachers’ retirement plans.
“It’s been an uncertainty,” Osborne said, also adding the state government should “look for a solution that’s not going to destroy every state employee and hurt our colleges.”
As with most things, Osborne thanks God as disaster was avoided with her retirement plans.
Osborne may be done teaching for now, but she is definitely not done serving.