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Seneca Valley retirees discuss life after teaching

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Gary Lisica, retired life science teacher from Seneca Valley Middle School, has exchanged his textbooks for hands-on care of his 245-acres in Stoneboro. He and 26 others from the district retired in June.
After 38 years of teaching music, Marchelle Agnostinelli retired from Haine Elementary School. She is just one of the 27 teachers who retired from Seneca Valley School District in June.

There were no back-to-school butterflies for two of the 27 Seneca Valley School District's 2013 retirees when classes began on Aug. 28.

Marchelle Agnostinelli and Gary Lisica decided last year to bring their educators' roles to a close. In June, Agnostinelli and Lisica left behind careers of 38 and 22 years, respectively.

Agnostinelli of Evans City had spent 10 years at the junior high school before her 28 years at Haine Elementary School . She also served as vocal director of the school musical for 16 years.

“Two weeks before school started, I got my room ready,” said Agnostinelli, 59, of her decades-long routine.

This year, she was back in the classroom to help Haine's new music teacher unpack the boxes she had stored.

There was never a time when she didn't have exactly what she needed to decorate her classroom.

“Every month, my room changed,” she said.

There were football and pumpkin themes, winter and spring reminders. She found music and CDs and other items to make her students smile.

“I would dress like a song. I was known for my hats, slippers and costumes.”

What she had gotten from her grandmother who taught her piano, she shared with each of her classes.

On Agnostinelli's last day, the children gave back to her. It was a ruse when Michelle Ellis, her principal, asked her to stop by for her end-of-year evaluation.

“Michelle was pushing me up the hall,” Agnostinelli remembered.

As the women rounded the corner, she discovered students dressed in pink and red in honor of “Love for Mrs. A. Day.” There were banners declaring each grade's affection for the woman who had taught them to sing. For each lesson, Agnostinelli had sung her students into and out of the music room. And for one last time, Agnostinelli kept the tradition.

“I sang the song over the intercom — without crying,” she said. “I wanted to tell them how much it meant. It was a wonderful way to leave a career.”

Already, she admits to texting her teacher friends.

“I'm still in my jammies,” she jokes. “What are you doing?”

Gary Lisica, a Seneca Valley Middle School teacher, took his management skills from the classroom to the landscape.

After 22 years of teaching life science and ecology to seventh-graders, he now manages his 254-acre property in Stoneboro, Mercer County. And when he's not outside, he's playing golf.

“It was the proper time to go,” he said of his retirement at age 62. “With cutbacks, it makes a space for somebody else. It kept someone from being furloughed.”

Lisica came to teaching in his late 30s, bringing knowledge from other positions with him and feeling more capable of dealing with students.

“I found my niche. I'm surprised I didn't find it sooner,” he said.

“I worked as a mechanic on a tow boat, drove a tractor-trailer all over the country, converted vehicles to run on propane gas, worked in a shipyard, operated heavy equipment and owned several small businesses.”

In the past, he had used each summer to rest his mind.

“Then, I was ready to go, refreshed and anxious to meet the new kids and see what colleagues got married, had a child or left and meet the new ones,” Lisica said.

He found it hard to discuss his retirement with his students, he said, but he promised to return for their graduation. Many parties celebrated his dedication and friendship.

Lisica would hope to be remembered for the way he approached his subject.

“I taught science in the purest form. I was not political, not religious,” he said.

He did experiments, would take the students outside for class and always had something funny to say.

“I'll miss my colleagues and the kids. It was a gratifying way to make a living. What I won't miss is getting up at 5:30 a.m. and the 40-mile drive — especially in the winter.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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