If you add up their years on the job, a half-dozen Fort Plain faculty and staff have served the children and community of the district for more than two centuries. With a combined 216 years of service, FPCSD’s latest retirees and retirees-to-be will surely be missed. Yet as they embark on new life journeys, they are wished only the best.
Celebrated and honored at a March 17 retirement breakfast at the high school were Andrea Bouck, Patti Jarabek, Jay Jarabek, Charlie Karker, Sue Summerfield and Paul Van Avery. Here are a few highlights and remembrances from their time at Fort Plain.
Andrea Bouck, guidance secretary, retired on February 28. She joined the Fort Plain staff as a clerk typist on Sept. 1, 1986, and also served as a cheerleader coach from 1992-1997 and 2005-2021.
“Andrea Bouck graduated from Fort Plain High School . . . and she never left,” said FPHS Principal Dr. Deborah Larrabee. “She stayed here for 37 years working in the guidance office. Her skills and knowledge are renowned. Whether working on the schedule, talking with teachers or working with the cheer team, Andrea gives 110 percent. Hard work, loyalty and diligence are the cornerstones of her character. Andrea Bouck is truly one of a kind. We thank her for all she has contributed to Fort Plain over the years.”
“A huge part of Andrea’s career at Fort Plain was spent building a phenomenal cheerleading program,” said a former cheerleader who is now a district employee. “For 17 years, she committed to coaching hundreds of girls in the sport that she loved. She established a program full of respect, talent and Topper Pride.
“Because of her, FP cheer is still known for its talent, dedication and precision. Andrea was not only a coach, but a mentor to countless young women as they navigated their high school years. Her legacy will always live on through FP cheer!”
Andrea’s lifelong friend, Kim, said, “Andrea Bouck has been a constant, familiar face at FPHS for the past 37 years. Her passion has always been the kids. She has touched so many lives as a cheer coach, schedule manager, database guru, problem solver, colleague, confidante, mentor and friend. Whether she was creating and choreographing dance routines that delighted and amazed basketball game attendees, helping with prom or listening as students worked through figuring out who they are and what their next steps will be, she has always given her all.
“Andrea has left an indelible mark on FPHS and all of those who have walked its halls. We are grateful for her time, experience, energy and her propensity to leave things better than she found them.”
Emily Marsh, a former cheerleader of Andrea’s who is now on the cheer team at Syracuse University, sent the following well wishes. “Andrea, congratulations on your retirement! I don’t know anyone more deserving of this new stage of your life than you. You have tirelessly worked for years to ensure students succeed and they have those resources to succeed.
“On a more personal note, you have changed my life far more than you know. Starting cheerleading in 9th grade, I wasn’t sure if this was the right sport for me or if I was even any good at it. I remember coming to your office the following year in tears, telling you I wanted to quit. You did talk me out of it, and I could not be more grateful. I wouldn’t have this beautiful life and some of my very best friends if it weren’t for you.
“I felt so lost my first year at Syracuse, and then you told me about cheerleading tryouts. I thought, “Yeah, right.” I would never make the team and it would be embarrassing. But with your encouragement I tried out, and I made the team. Having you present at almost every basketball and football game and Nationals at Disney gave me that confidence and support that I needed to succeed. I got to experience so many new places and things and made friends that turned into family because you were the one who believed in me.
“You have always believed in me, and that made me believe in me, too. Becoming a cheerleader was one of the best decisions of my life, and I want to thank you so sincerely for giving me that gift. I don’t know a lot of people who are so willing to go above and beyond for their students, current and former. Thank you so much for your support and love over the years, I will never be able to repay you. I’m so excited for you and I hope you enjoy your retirement! Love, Emily.”
Spanish teacher Patti Jarabek will retire in June of this year. She’s taught Spanish at the high school since being hired by Fort Plain during the 1991-1992 school year. In addition to teaching, Patti has led various extracurricular activities, serving as class advisor from 1994-1998, 2004-2006 and 2012-2013, cheerleading coach from 1992-1994, and Spanish department coordinator from 2005-2023.
“Twenty years ago, when I came to Fort Plain, I was fortunate to have Patti Jarabek as my mentor,” said fellow Spanish teacher Dr. Melanie Pombrio. “Patti provided me with a safe space to ask questions, try new projects, develop curriculum which allowed for creativity and personal expression, and so much more.
“Furthermore, Patti afforded me the opportunity to develop both personally and professionally. I have been very blessed and grateful to call Patti my colleague, but more importantly my friend. Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement, Patti. Wishing you nothing but the best in the next chapter of your adventure!”
Science teacher Jay Jarabek will retire in June 2023 after 31 years leading his FPHS classrooms and labs. In addition to his years of teaching courses including living environment, chemistry and AP biology, Jay has held various coaching positions since 1993, including volleyball from 1993-2009 and track & field from 1993-2007, and he served as science department coordinator from 2017-2022.
Colleague Lance Elliott said, “When I started teaching here in Fort Plain, Jay’s biology classroom was in room 102 (where Carol Connelly is now). That might give the younger teachers a clue as to how long we’ve been working together! In the early days, I was assigned to teach a section of biology and Jay was the go-to guy. Whether it was a lab, lab supplies, notes, or quizzes, he was always there to help.
“If it’s not already obvious, Jay is probably the most organized teacher in Fort Plain history,” Lance added. “Seriously, his student handouts and labs for the next nine months are photocopied before the school year even starts! Additionally, his entire room is systematically labeled, and his collection of three-ring binders is legendary! Some say that once Jay learned Microsoft Excel, data ran the other way!”
Lance noted Jay’s dedication to all of the high school’s students. “For many years Jay has volunteered his time to create, print and hand out achievement awards each quarter during lunch. He understands that it is often these small acknowledgements that fuel students’ desire towards continued improvement.
“It’s not surprising that when Jay’s AP bio kids graduate, he still tracks their progress! A number of his former students work in either medical research or healthcare, and it is my belief that it was his influence that made the difference in their career choice. Way to go Jay!”
Charlie Karker served Fort Plain as a physical education and health teacher, coach, sports coordinator and athletic director for five decades. Hired during the 1972-73 school year, Charlie taught PE and health until retiring from the instructional team in 2004. He continued to support FPHS students and faculty as a coach and athletic director from 1977-2022, when he retired.
FPHS Principal Deborah Larrabee said, “Charlie Karker started his career in Fort Plain in 1972. While many things have changed in those 50 years, one thing has not. Mr. Karker was a steadfast force and friendly face at Fort Plain. He shows the same enthusiasm, dedication and compassion to all our Toppers athletes. Charlie Karker will forever be remembered as an outstanding athletic director, coach, mentor and friend who will always be cheering for Fort Plain.
“It’s an honor to celebrate the retirement of people who have been with Fort Plain for many, many years,” added Dr. Larrabee. “It has been a true honor to work with them. I wish them all the best with good things yet to come.”
Sue Summerfield has taught math at Fort Plain High School since joining the district’s staff for the 2003-04 school year. She’s also served students and faculty as treasurer of extra-classroom funds in 2006 and through various extracurricular positions since 2008.
Sue, who will retire this June, was praised by fellow math teacher Debbie Waner. “Sue taught the 8th grade since she started here in Fort Plain (God bless her). In addition to teaching, she has been an extracurricular advisor for many different classes. She has organized many activities, proms and senior trips.
“Sue has been in charge of all extracurricular funds. That is a job in itself. She was recently in charge of the mentor program for the district and mentored several of her colleagues, including the student teacher who took her place in the 8th grade classroom this year,” Debbie added.
“Sue belongs to several organizations outside of school and has presented at numerous math conferences. She also enjoys a good meal, which was evident when we co-advised a senior trip.”
Paul Van Avery is retiring on April 28 after serving Fort Plain for more than 46 years. He has been part of the school community from kindergarten throughout his entire career, beginning as a cleaner and advancing to director of facilities III.
Humble, hardworking and dedicated, Paul will be dearly missed, and often thought of, as he embarks upon his life’s next chapter. Read more about Paul and his retirement.