View from retirement: Red Bay FACS teacher embraces life after high school
FRANKLIN LIVING NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2022
In May Red Bay High School’s Sherry Hutcheson retired from teaching Family and Consumer Sciences – but she hasn’t been sitting around gathering dust since then. Retirement has proven to be as busy a time as ever, packed with mural painting, table runner quilting, thrift store treasure finding, world traveling and family care-taking.
“I’m finding I’ve got more time to do stuff I actually want to do instead of just the stuff I have to get done,” said Hutcheson – little things, like getting the laundry washed when she wants to and running errands to the Shoals. Although Hutcheson has found a little more margin for life on her own terms, however, she’s also continued to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her many hobbies and passions.
As the first day of school approached, for example, the East Franklin native – who now lives in Spruce Pine – got an unexpected call from her former assistant principal, Dr. Jacqueline Parsons. Parsons had been spending some time bringing new life to the elementary playground – the stage was rebuilt, the basketball court got new goals and concrete – and she wanted to see a storage building turned into a work of art. That’s where Hutcheson came in. “She called me one day, and she said, ‘Do you want to paint the side of this building?’ And I said ‘Sure, why not,’” Hutcheson recalled.
The catch was, Parsons wanted it done by the first day of school. That gave Hutcheson precious little time – barely two weeks. With help from her husband Toby and from Parsons, the new mural was finished in 10 days time. They were short days, too, given that Hutcheson would start early and break off before it got too hot – which happens early in the day in a sweltering Alabama August.
The Peanuts-themed mural has brought plenty of joy to the school playground. “I said, everybody likes Charlie Brown. Let’s do Charlie Brown,” Hutcheson said. The colorful scene features all the main characters – Linus with his blanket, Sally jumping rope with Lucy and Peppermint Patty, Snoopy, Woodstock, Schroeder and, of course, Charlie Brown himself. “Mrs. Parsons said everybody likes it who drives by.”
“I enjoyed it. I like to paint,” Hutcheson added. “Several years ago my husband couldn’t think of anything to get me for Christmas. I said, ‘Get me some paint and a couple canvases, and I’ll try my hand at painting again,’” – intending to revive a childhood talent she hadn’t picked up in several years. Although Hutcheson received her requested gift, after the holidays she became busy helping with dress alterations during prom season – and her husband, anxious to see the new supplies put to use, wound up turning into an artist himself, self-taught from Youtube and creating his own works of art with her Christmas gift. Now it’s a hobby they share.
Being retired has given Hutcheson more time for other projects, too, like helping her sister make quilted table runners for the Mountain Top Homemakers Club’s annual charity bazaar. She’s also been busy taking care of her aging mother, staying with her overnight as her mother’s short-term memory has gone.
Despite closing the book on her 30-year career, Hutcheson is still involved in local FACS curriculum, as well. She’s on the advisory committee for the Belgreen FACS teacher, Mimi Wood. “We’re there to support and advise the teacher if they need help coming up with speakers or people to give demonstrations in class or to help raise money or anything.”
“I kind of miss teaching, but I’m trying to keep away from butting in on the new teacher,” added Hutcheson, whose replacement Leslie Thorne was a former student of Hutcheson’s. “I’m letting her do her own thing. I told her if she needed me to call me.”
It’s probably not surprising that someone who has spent so many years teaching students everything from sewing and quilting to cooking, soap-making, budgeting, babysitting, personal care and more would be tapped for a statewide award recognizing her contributions – not surprising to anyone except Hutcheson herself, the 2022 winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama Association for Career and Technical Education, selected from all career tech teachers in the sate.
“I was amazed. I was not expecting to get that at all,” said Hutcheson, who received the recognition in July. “It makes me feel good. You work your whole life, and you never get recognition – and then to get it at the state level – I said, ‘OK, this was worth working for 30 years.’ To be recognized at the state level was a big honor.”
Hutcheson knew she had received the FACS award, thanks to the nomination from friend Kim Mitchell at Jacksonville State, but the overall Lifetime Achievement Award was one she knew nothing about until she attended the ceremony in Mobile.
For Hutchseon, it goes perhaps even deeper than being a personal honor. It’s a welcome nod to the value FACS teachers and programs provide. Hutcheson said she has seen a noticeable drop in such programming throughout her tenure in education.
“It’s something all the kids need to know. It’s stuff they need to know how to do,” Hutcheson said. “I’m afraid before too long, we’re going to become extinct.”
When she hasn’t been busy cooking or canning or painting or advising, traveling has also become a mainstay of retirement. Earlier this fall Hutcheson spent a week in Costa Rica with her husband, youngest daughter and her husband and a family friend. At the end of October, she was planning a trip to Las Vegas to accompany her daughter traveling for a conference. “We’re staying at Caesars Palace,” said Hutcheson. “I’ve been to Vegas, and I’ve stayed at the Rio and the Stratosphere, but I’ve never stayed at Caesars Palace.” They had plans to go see Donnie Osmond as well as the Blue Man Group.
In future years, Hutcheson said she hopes to travel to Argentina, Alaska – her husband’s never been – and the Scottish Highlands, and her husband wants them to visit Iceland.
The “yours, mine and ours” couple has three children: Tommy, 39, Savannah, 36, and Alyssa, 26. All three are married, and the Hutchesons now have five grandchildren – a 1-year-old, a 7-year-old, and three teenagers.