Opting Out After 40 Years

A teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School calls it quits after 40 years as an educator.

When her Haddonfield school district lost $1.5 million in state aid, biology teacher Jan Eckhouse decided it was time to call it quits.
Photo by Chris Crisman.

When she was a girl, Jan Eckhouse loved snakes. And frogs. And crayfish. “I was gung ho science from the time I was a little kid,” she says.

At Michigan State, where she went to college, the two most popular careers for women were nursing and teaching. “Anybody who was an education major was said to be there for a Mrs. degree,” Eckhouse says. “I was very interested in science.” She went on to pursue her master’s at William & Mary, certain she wanted to get a PhD and go into research. One day, though, she was offered a job teaching freshman labs for a small salary that would cover tuition. She took the job and recognized the teacher residing within. “A lot of freshmen struggled with biology, so I would hold review sessions at night for anyone who wanted to come,” she says. “That’s when I discovered that I liked helping them with the material.”

Eckhouse landed her first teaching job at Haddonfield Memorial High School and stayed 40 years. She’d be there now, still teaching AP biology, if there had been no state budget crisis and Haddonfield had not lost all its $1.5 million in state education aid. Once she heard, she decided to retire. Just like that. Eckhouse guessed her move could save her district about $35,000. “I earn in the 80s. They can replace me with someone who earns a lot less.”

Her husband, Mark, was surprised. They had discussed a retirement date a year away. “He understood though. You don’t devote your whole life to a place as I had, and then watch it hurt so badly,” she says.
Eckhouse’s principal was stunned. “Are you sure you’re ready to do this?” he asked.

Her last day was June 18. She planned to slip out quietly. Another career was beckoning. Eckhouse is now a student in Camden County College’s veterinary technology program.

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