AMHERST – Entering the final days of another school year, Cindy McCarthy said the fact her teaching career is coming to an end hasn’t hit her yet.
“I really haven’t thought about it, but eventually it will hit me that I’m retiring,” McCarthy said Tuesday while cleaning up her soon to be empty classroom at Amherst Regional High School. “It’s the right time, I’m at peace with my decision.”
McCarthy, 59, said she is looking forward to working in her own studio and perhaps do some volunteering in the community.
“I knew it was time as the year went on this year. It takes a huge amount of energy to teach and work with a group of 15, 16 and 17-year-olds,” she said. “I think I’m ready for someone else to do it. I enjoyed every moment of it, but I want to use what’s left of my energy on my own pursuits.”
While she studied math in university, it wasn’t until she was studying toward her education degree that she was introduced to art.
“I didn’t know it was a subject because I didn’t have it when I was growing up,” she said. “Here I was in my final year of university and I was finding what I really loved.”
In the following years, she continued to study art by taking courses at Mount Allison and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
McCarthy’s teaching career began in Yarmouth, teaching elementary and special education in 1973. She moved on to East Chester to teach Primary and Grade 1 before coming to Amherst in the late 1970s with her husband, Hollis – who retired from teaching at E.B. Chandler Junior High several years ago.
In 1980, then ARHS principal Ed Colquohoun called her about the vacant art teacher’s position at the school. While he asked her to let him know if she knew someone interested in the position, she took some time to think about it and offered her name for the job.
McCarthy was instrumental in the rebirth of the art curriculum at the school when it was located on Spring Street and at the 12-year-old facility on Willow Street. From hanging artwork on the walls of the old school, the program now has its own gallery next to the Susan Taylor Theatre, where student art is prominently displayed.
“When they were planning this school they asked for input and I said there has to be an art gallery and it happened,” she said. “It has worked well.”
Through the course she has taught students about making art, looking at other art and responding to it and understanding the context of art and why does an image from a certain time or culture look the way it does.
She said she has been privileged to work with so many talented students over the years. She said talent is not the right word to describe the word done by her students.
“A lot of people don’t know they have a love of art until they are exposed to it. Once they are exposed to it they find it’s been there all along,” she said. “If something sparks them they go further with it. I’m amazed by the work that comes out of the students every day.”