Ginger Hamm, who earned induction into the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame, will be handing in her chalk at the end of the school year.
Ginger Hamm never had a burning desire to teach school.
When she entered college she thought she would major in Spanish.
``That lasted three days,'' she said. Next she tried music, but as much as she likes playing the piano and singing, it wasn't the right fit either.
Her third time turned out to be the proverbial charm.
``I said to myself, `I think I'll try teaching,''' Hamm said. ``What a blessing.''
Four decades after making her decision, Hamm has no regrets.
``I feel so blessed to be in a profession I love so much and get paid for it,'' she said. ``I like making kids feel good about themselves. I get more from these kids than I ever gave them.''
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Hamm has made a difference in countless kindergartners' lives. Her students have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and business people.
One of her former students gave her a pillow that says, ``To teach is to touch a life forever.''
``I hung it on the wall, and I read it everyday,'' Hamm said.
After 39 years in the classroom, 37 of them spent at Centennial School, Hamm is putting away her chalkboard to spend more time with her husband, Emory. He retired two years ago.
The time off will allow her more time with her friends, but it's her young friends she will miss the most.
``These children have helped me through a lot,'' she said. ``They are so accepting of others. This is one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, but it's time to move on to other things.''
The Hamms plan to take several motorcycle trips together, but Ginger Hamm also wants to make it back to Centennial to work as a volunteer.
``I have to have kids in my life,'' she said. ``I have to have a purpose.''
Hamm's dedication to education earned her induction into the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame. She will receive the award next month in Dodge City.
``It was a very big surprise,'' Hamm said. ``It's a real humbling experience. I've taught with so many fine teachers through the years and I don't think I do anything different than they do.''
Many, including her students, would disagree.
Charlie Frager, 6, is just beginning his academic career as Hamm finishes hers.
``She teaches me a lot of stuff and I teach her a lot of stuff,'' he said. ``She taught me not to use my hands, but my mouth, and talk it over.''
Hamm is satisfied when she hears students take to heart her advice.
``I want them to love learning,'' she said. ``Why should learning be so hard? It should be fun. I want them to love it and feel good about what they're doing.''
--JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.