The teacher who laid the foundation for the highly successful Payson High School Special Education program is stepping down.
Becky Derwort, however, will continue her volunteer efforts with the Payson Special Olympics program that she helped shape into one of the finest in the state.
As for ending her teaching career, she said, "I just felt like it was time for me to go; a teacher kind of knows when that time comes."
Payson High School assistant principal Tim Fruth is among those administrators who understands her value to the profession.
"She is a great teacher and she's done so much over the years for both special education and Special Olympics," he said.
"She will be sorely missed."
Derwort began her teaching career in 1977 at Julia Randall Elementary School. Earlier, she graduated from St. Cloud State University of Wisconsin, with a major in special education.
"I wanted to be a special ed teacher since I was in ninth grade," she said.
After teaching 4th to 6th grade at JRE for 12 years, she transferred to Payson High School where she jump-started the Community Based Instruction (CBI) program that is modeled after some of the most successful curriculums in the country.
"It involves teaching functional skills that students can apply in their everyday lives," she said.
Fruth calls CBI, "a top notch program that does wonderful things for the students."
During it, students in grades nine through 12, attend regular education classes but later go through a transition, when they are 18 to 21-years-of-age, to a more advanced program in which they are asked to join the work force.
While employed they are closely monitored and tutored.
The program has helped scores of PHS students acquire gainful employment and keep their jobs into their adult lives.
Although PHS administrators call Derwort "almost irreplaceable" they have found a teacher, Ryan St. John, to take over the reins of the program.
"I am very excited for this young man," Derwort said. "I believe he has what it takes (to be a Special Education teacher)."
So, Mrs. Derwort, what does it take?
"First off, enjoy the kids and don't fret about all the paperwork," she answered. "The emphasis must always be on the kids or there is no enjoyment in teaching."
Derwort also believes that special ed teachers, who usually acknowledge they are a rare breed of educators, must stay focused on the important things in life, remember their goals and understand that the students are a big part of their lives.
"Now that I'm retired, I realize the students gave me as much, or more, than what I was able to give them," she said.
As good a special education teacher as Derwort was, she was equally as successful as a Special Olympics coach and Area Director.
Over the years she coached the sports of track and field, downhill skiing, bowling, figure skating, gymnastics and swimming.
Her volunteer duties included spending hundreds of man-hours each year coaching SO athletes and chaperoning them to competitions around the state.
"I tried to hold down the travel to one weekend a month, but sometimes that wasn't possible," she said.
Often, Derwort took her two children along on SO team trips in order to have more time to spend with the pair.
"Balancing your career and your family is a big challenge," she said.
In retiring from teaching, Derwort is convinced she'll now have a few more hours to coach and oversee the Special Olympic program.
"I'd like to work on improving the volunteer base and upgrading and adding to the programs," she said.
But other than working on those goals, she plans on spending more time with her aging parents and enjoying her daughter's marriage next fall.
"After that, I want to stay at home four consecutive days," she said. "I've never done that before."
A potluck retirement party and "roast" will be held for Derwort at 1 p.m., June 22 at the Moose Lodge in Star Valley. All her friends are invited to attend.
For more information, call Terri Legassie (928) 474-9324, Sandy Somsen (928) 978-0220 or Ruby Land (928) 472-7619.