Reflecting on life as a teacher |

Reflecting on life as a teacher

Elsie Sharpe’s picture album has a quilted blue and white floral cover and an oval, lace-fringed picture frame in the center punctuated with an elegant blue bowknot.

To Sharpe, the album is a treasure – a gift from her colleagues when she retired from Nevada City Elementary School. It is full of photographs from her farewell dinner and picnic and paper cuttings of newspaper stories on her, from decades ago.

Sharpe is one of thousands of retired teachers statewide who are being honored this week as part of the eighth annual California Retired Teachers Week. The Nevada County chapter consists of about 250 members, according to Jack Bacich, the newsletter editor of the organization. Sharpe is a member.

Long history

At 82, Sharpe has had a long relationship with Nevada City Elementary School. She was a student there when it was called Washington School, prior to 1937. Later, with teaching credentials from San Jose State University, she taught second grade there for 18 years before becoming the master teacher, the vice principal and finally the principal.

She retired in 1983.

Today, Sharpe’s tranquil life revolves around her large, one-story cottage in Nevada City, where she’s lived for 58 years. And though she isn’t into education any more, her immaculate living room and graceful persona shows how much she is still a teacher at heart – an example for others to follow.

“I’ve always been pretty much an optimist,” Sharpe said.

“There is always something to look forward to. I check my calendar every morning to see what am I doing today? Where am I going to lunch? What meeting am I going to attend?

“It is important to look forward to what you do every day.”

Sharpe also is involved in the Nevada County Travel Club. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, traveling, going to lunch with her high school friends and watching “a lot of sports.”

Sharpe was born to immigrant parents in Nevada City in 1924. Her father came from Wuppertal, Germany, and learned English in San Francisco. He owned the building on the corner of Broad and Pine streets that now houses the US Hotel Bed & Breakfast and Fur Traders. Her mother was a homemaker.

“My father ran a restaurant and a bar (both, on the ground floor of the building) and rented rooms (upstairs),” Sharpe said. “I had three elder sisters. We all lived in a house on Broad Street.”

Strong family ties are a part of Sharpe’s life. One of her sisters lives across the street from her. She regularly meets up with her son, Gary Sharpe, who is a physical education teacher and football coach at Nevada Union. In fact, most of Sharpe’s neighbors are people she’s befriended for years.

Advice for parents

So what advice does Sharpe have for parents about raising children, especially from the perspective of a teacher?

“Spend a lot of time talking to your children, reading to them, and don’t put too much pressure on them to succeed,” Sharpe said. “Give them the opportunity to be with other children, and help them become responsible people.”

Sharpe lauded local parents for their involvement in their children’s education.

“I think we are very fortunate in our area,” she said. “Parents are quite involved in their children’s schools. They volunteer. They are pretty interested and supportive.”


To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

Retired teachers honored

The eighth annual California Retired Teachers Week started Sunday.

According to California Retired Teachers Association Web site, the members had tallied more than 2.3 million hours of volunteer service in the past year, valued at nearly $44 million. Members of the association also funded more than $400,000 in scholarships for future teachers and implemented 81 community services throughout the state.

Source: California Retired Teachers Association

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