Retirement awaits for Al Jacquay.
The longtime educator and current president of the Fort Wayne Education Association -- the negotiating arm of Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers -- will leave that role March 4. He will be replaced by Julie Hyndman, who is the 1st Vice President of FWEA.
Jacquay will leave Fort Wayne entirely, relocating to Bloomington to a 1950s-era home that he and his wife completely refurbished. After more than 38 years of service, as an art teacher at the former Geyer Middle School, as well as South Side and Northrop high schools, and then assuming the presidency of the FWEA in 2008, he recognizes that it is time.
"I loved what I did. I had a lot of passion with what I did, and I believe that is something that all classrooms need, people who are passionate about what they do," Jacquay said Wednesday. "Little things that I did, just to be a human being toward students who may not have had much, who may have had struggles in their day-to-day lives that people truly don't want to talk about...those are the things that I will remember most."
Krista Stockman, the public information officer for FWCS, said the district and the FWEA, even when they didn't agree on specific issues, maintained a positive relationship under Jacquay's watch, which matters more than people might think.
"Al has always been an advocate for children. He's such a strong supporter of public education," Stockman said. "If the teachers aren't on board with what we're trying to do in the classroom, it won't happen."
Stockman said the ability to maintain dialogue is the reason for the long-term success of the two sides, who negotiate working conditions.
"Certainly, there have been times that the teachers' association and the district haven't always seen eye to eye, but it really comes down to the personal relationships that you build," Stockman said. "With (FWCS Superintendent) Dr. (Wendy) Robinson, she has great relationships with people.
"It's like a family. You may have disagreements. You might not like everything they do. But you don't always make those things public. That doesn't always provide the answer to things," Stockman said. "They talk about little things before they become big things."
Jacquay, for his part, is leaving public education with some regret. He decries the change in how teachers are viewed and the standards under which they work, with raises partially dictated by performance on standardized tests, because he feels that not all important things that a student learns in school can be shown on a piece of paper.
"There's respect for others. Teamwork. Learning how to work with others and accomplish greater things as a whole, even when someone is different than you or comes from a different background. Those things...they're still taught in school. Teachers try to show students how to do these things. But they've been devalued," Jacquay said. "It's all math. It's all English. And there's nothing wrong with those things. But there's more to education than those things, and it's unfortunate that people who haven't taught a day in their lives don't understand that, because some of the skills that are being devalued most are the skills you need to be successful each day in life."
Those battles, though, will soon be the responsibility of others to fight. Jacquay, who has a background in private business, as well, is looking forward to filling his days with old interests and new experiences.
"I haven't done any artwork in 15 years. I've been working on a book, a table book, that comes from the years I lived in the Amish community...there are still things with travel that we'd like to do," Jacquay said.
"It's been a great career. It's been a great ride. I wouldn't change a thing, because all of the experiences I had helped me grow as a person."