Jill Bucks has a lot of stories about her students, but as a professional, she won’t tell any of them.

Jill, a resident of Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, taught high school health and physical education for 28 years before recently retiring in June 2017. After graduating from Hershey High School in 1970, Jill continued her education at West Chester State College (now West Chester University), earning a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1974.

“It just seemed like a natural transition,” Jill said.

She graduated from West Chester with membership in Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society for education majors. By guiding her students on the journey to good physical, emotional and mental health through instruction, Jill has fulfilled the society’s mission to “advance quality education by inspiring teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges.”

As a teacher, she most enjoyed “being able to see kids improve over time” and teaching skills they would have for a lifetime. Out of all the sports she taught in physical education, Jill’s favorite was pickleball – a badminton\ping-pong hybrid, which many of her former students also loved. She still enjoys playing today.

“When I retired, the other teachers gave me a signed pickleball paddle,” she said.

The teacher put herself back into a student’s shoes when she returned to West Chester for her master’s in health and physical education, a degree she completed in 1980. But one master’s degree was not enough for Jill. In 1986, she received her master’s in educational administration from Shippensburg University.

“Leadership always came naturally to me,” she said, “and continuing your education is part of the process of improving yourself.”

Advanced degrees have many benefits, including pay increases, but Jill believes not everyone is suited to go back to school.

“Life can throw many challenges at us that make it difficult to continue our education,” she said. “Family, jobs, lack of funding and distance to an educational institution can prevent people from continuing. But we must continue to learn new things. You have to be a lifelong learner.”

She has similar advice for aspiring teachers.

“It’s not just about liking students. You also have to like your subject matter and believe what you’re doing is important,” Jill explained. “People bring different percentages to the job, but you can’t have one without the other.”

While some use retirement – for many, a calmer period of life with less obligations than the days when they worked or raised a family – to sit back,
relax and watch the world go by, Jill works out five days a week. She walks, runs, swims and uses the machines at the Baird Wellness Center on campus.

“When you’re working, you think you’re being active, but you’re really not,” she said.

Along with giving her more time to exercise, retirement has allowed Jill to become more active in the Order of the Eastern Star. A member of Hershey Chapter No. 509, Jill was the Deputy Grand Matron for District 6B for 2016-2017. Her father was a Mason for over 60 years, and her husband is a member of Brownstone Lodge No. 666 in Hershey.

“All the energy I put into teaching is now going into the Order of the Eastern Star,” Jill said.

Retirement for Jill means more time to continue her passion for learning outside the classroom/gymnasium, while also squeezing in the occasional pickleball match.

Megan Hess

About the author: Megan Hess, a senior from Messiah College, is a public relations associate at Masonic Villages.