Shirley Oliver, the life skills teacher at Galloway Township Middle School, is retiring June 30. The school is losing more than a teacher; it is losing a mom.
Oliver, who is in her 15th year of teaching in the same classroom, works with seventh- and eighth-grade students on the foundational skills of living outside of school.
Now she is ready to turn a page in her own life.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “The next chapter of my life.”
Oliver said she wants to spend more time with her family during her retirement. She has eight children and 21 grandchildren. She is also thinking about traveling.
As a life skills instructor, Oliver said she teaches character education, time management, setting goals and working on relationships with friends and family. The curriculum also includes financial literacy, such as how to write out a check, the difference between debit and credit cards, and understanding clothing care labels and symbols for washing laundry.
These skills are important for students to learn, Oliver said, “because they are the basics of being an independent person and running a household.”
A food unit takes up the bulk of the class. In her classroom, complete with six full kitchens and seven ovens, she covers kitchen and food safety before the students learn to cook recipes.
“If they can read a recipe, measure well and follow the directions, they’ll be able to make anything,” she said.
Oliver’s class is part of the Arts and Humanities Department at the middle school. While each student gets a course from the department, it’s the luck of the draw whether they are placed in one of her classes.
“I get about three-quarters of the students in a given year,” she said. “Some I get to know really well.”
In addition to teaching, Oliver supervises the Life Skills Cooking Club, which meets twice a month, and a sewing group that meets once a month. She also steps into a maternal role in the school, helping out whenever she can.
“I don’t just teach here,” she explained. “I help with the laundry for the team sports, and students come to me for help with stains or holes in their shirts. I feel like a mom.”
“I love to sew,” Oliver said. “I love to cook. My husband says I have the perfect job. I feel very blessed to have this job.”