Rita Racine recalls being interviewed by the Brunswick Record when she was a newspaper carrier and being asked what she wanted to be when she became an adult.

Racine answered that she wanted to be a teacher.

After 38 years of teaching fourth-grade students in Rockland, Racine will retire from the South School in Rockland on Friday, June 17.

“I had a dream and it came true. I’ve lived my dream,” Racine said on the next-to-last day of her long career in education.

Racine said she has been most happy with becoming part of the lives of so many people over the generations. For many years, Racine said students would come in on the first day of school and tell her that she had been the teacher for their mother, father, sister or brother. Two years ago, one student noted she had taught her grandmother.

The veteran educator said she is proud of the work of the Rockland school system and believes passionately that it has received an unfair, poor reputation. She said many students come to school from difficult home situations where there is little support for the youngsters.

“They may have no one at home who tells them they believe in them,” Racine said. “I tell them I believe in them. If someone can inspire them, they can reach their goals.”

Racine grew up and graduated from high school in Brunswick, the youngest of seven children from a poor family. She went to the University of Maine at Fort Kent and earned her teaching degree.

Her desire was to be a middle school or high school English teacher but upon leaving college in 1973, there were few teaching jobs. A friend called and informed her that there was an elementary school teaching job available in Rockland.

The job was at the North School and would consist of being the third-grade homeroom teacher, and to teach reading and math to fourth-graders and math to second-graders.

“It was like being in a one-room schoolhouse,” she noted.

Racine applied for the job and was interviewed by Superintendent Bruce Kinney and then later had a grueling two-hour interview with the assistant superintendent and North School Principal Ray Freve. She said by the end of the interview she told them that she may not be the person for the job since she couldn’t answer some of their questions and asked for the interview to end.

A few weeks later, she got a call from the superintendent who offered her the job — which was only for a half year to handle overcrowding at North School. She began working in December 1973.

That spring she was hired to be a fourth-grade teacher at North School and she has taught fourth grade every year since then.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.

There have been a lot of changes in education including mandates from the federal and state government and Racine said she questions whether the people who developed the changes understood the impact.

She said she questions the emphasis on technology at the lower grades.

“I know technology is important but I believe in good, old fashion teaching,” Racine said. “Kids need a foundation. You can’t build the roof, walls and then try to build the foundation.”

The veteran teacher also noted that the changes come so frequently it does not allow time to see what will work. She likened it to planting a garden and changing plants before seeing what the flowers look like.

Racine said every year she had butterflies in her stomach out of excitement before the start of school in September.

“But for the past two years, those butterflies have not been as strong,” Racine said.

In December, she decided it was time for her to retire rather than try to continue with changes that she could not embrace.

In the past two years, there have been numerous transfers of teachers within the district with many of the South School teachers being moved to other buildings and other grade levels.

Racine is the second most senior teacher in the district with elementary teacher Joan Hall having been hired three months prior to Racine. Hall is also retiring this week.

“I’ve been so blessed,” Racine said.

As for retirement, Racine said she is unsure what she will be doing. One interest she has is to write an alphabet cookbook with recipes for every letter.

“For 55 years, I have put on new shoes each September and gone to school and in June, I have packed up my things and taken summer vacation. This will be the first year I will not be doing that,” Racine said.