Mount Vernon art teacher Sarah Fitzgerald has retired as the elementary school art teacher, after more than 30 years in education.

“It’s been a lovely, long lasting career,” Fitzgerald said of her 30-year teaching career at Washington Elementary School.

Fitzgerald, a Cornell College art major, went on to study art at the University of Chicago. After an art internship, Fitzgerald found her way back to Mount Vernon.

One thing that has helped her teaching career has been the support that Mount Vernon has for the arts, Fitzgerald said.

“There are so many ways for children to practice visual arts in this community,” Fitzgerald said.

One of those ways that arts have been practiced in the past was the brainchild of Stan Crocker, the contributions of area art kids to the Magical Night Extravaganza.

“Those art displays take a few months of preparation and planning for a teacher, but it’s very exciting to have a community art piece as part of that festival,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald noted that one of the things she has loved as an art teacher is watching a lot of her students be successful in art not only at elementary school, but follow that passion into middle and high school as well.

“I’ve been so lucky to live in a community that values art and art education,” Fitzgerald said.

She also loved having the ability to work in the same school system as her daughters as they went through the Mount Vernon School system.

“It’s still going to be difficult to give up, as this has been such a lovely job for the past 30 years,” Fitzgerald said.

She said that dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the things that pushed her to retire earlier.

“I didn’t mind the hybrid model of teaching, that worked lovely,” Fitzgerald said. “COVID-19 just made me realize how I hadn’t focused on my own personal artwork for quite a while, and there were things I want to do professionally that don’t involve education.”

Some of Fitzgerald’s artwork is being shown at Palisades Café through the middle of June.

“It was kind of a serendipitous end, with this art show as I’m transitioning out of this position,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said she’s looking forward to this new chapter in her life.

“I’ve built my life around the school calendar since I’ve been 5,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a new concept for me to not have to worry about things like summer school or returning to the classroom in the middle of August.”

Retirement is giving her the gift of time to tackle different projects that she has been too busy during a school year to tackle. She doesn’t have a full schedule of activities she will be doing in retirement and hasn’t ruled out coming back for substitute teaching in the future.

Outside of working on art, Fitzgerald said she loves to travel, and has a trip to Greece planned for the fall. She’s also had chances to visit her daughter, Xena, who is a phD candidate at Tulane University when he was studying in Peru. Her daughter, Olivia, is a senior at the University of Iowa as well.

Fitzgerald is also looking forward to spending more time with her artist friends.

Fitzgerald extended a huge thank you to the Mount Vernon Fine Arts Association and the Mount Vernon Area Arts Council for their support of the elementary art school programs over the years as well.

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