While the Rim country is losing one of its premier educators, it's gaining an outdoor enthusiast and perhaps, one day, a noted novelist.
English instructor Priscilla Zuber, who has served as assistant dean of the Payson campus of Eastern Arizona College since the new facility opened, is hanging up her red grading pen. But the hundreds of students she has touched over a 25-year career as a teacher and administrator will still have to mind their grammar in and around the Rim country.
That's because Zuber, whose husband is already retired, isn't going anywhere except maybe the great outdoors. That's where she plans to get back to the things she hasn't had time for in recent years, like hiking, fishing, boating, camping and stargazing.
She also hopes to find some time to travel, to spend more time with her family, to pursue her avid interest in politics and the environment, and, hopefully, to learn some new things along the way. If that sounds like a busman's holiday for a career educator, then chances are you don't know Zuber all that well.
"Learning," she said, "is what life is all about."
In fact, one of the true pleasures of living in the Rim country, she is convinced, is the caliber of the students and their quest for knowledge.
"I just love teaching here in Payson," she said. "It has been a marvelous experience."
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Zuber became affiliated with EAC-Payson back in 1987. But it was a far cry from the institution it has since become.
"My first three years I spent teaching business classes at night in the high school on a part-time basis," she said. "The money to support the college came out of the general fund at that time, so I became involved in a movement to bring a secondary tax levy to our county so we would have a regular source of funding."
Zuber chaired the committee that got the necessary legislation passed in 1990, although she is quick to point out that she had a lot of help.
"Doyle Coffey and Josephine Alvarez and some others were instrumental in our success," she said.
With permanent funding in place, things began happening for the fledgling college including a new home in a storefront location on Highway 87.
"We got the levy passed in May, and we moved into the Beeline facility next to Sears in August," she said.
With four classrooms and a computer lab, the college was large enough for some stability, so Zuber was hired full-time. But it wasn't yet large enough to let her wear one hat, so her new title was English-Business Instructor/On-site Coordinator.
A second push began shortly thereafter for the building fund that would allow EAC-Payson to finally have its own campus, and Zuber was also heavily involved in that effort.
When the new campus finally opened in January of 2000, she was tapped as its first dean. For a woman who had taught a variety of subjects at every level from sixth grade to college all around the country, it was a gratifying opportunity to wrap up a long and distinguished commitment to learning.
Not yet two years old, the new campus on the northeast corner of Mud Springs Road and Highway 260 is already bursting at the seams.
"How fast we've outgrown our new facility is the single biggest surprise I've had since we opened," Zuber said.
And now that she has decided to step aside, she sees nothing but good things ahead.
"There's so much potential for so much to be done," she said.
"We have a 55-acre site, and there are so many programs that can be developed."
But Zuber is perfectly happy to let somebody else carry the load. She plans to spend the first two months of her retirement hiking and enjoying nature.
"And like every teacher," she said, "there's a book in there. I've had an outline for 10 years, and who knows, maybe it will end up being the great American novel."