It takes a special person to enjoy teaching middle school kids. Their transition from childhood to early teen years is a rocky road and their behavior often reflects the stress.
But middle-schoolers - usually grades six through eight - were Roz Edelson's favorites during a long career as an educator that began in New York City and culminated at Willamette University in Salem, where she was a professor in the graduate school of education.
"Middle school seemed kind of the last chance to keep kids in school and get them enthusiastic about learning," said Edelson, who retired to Astoria with her partner, Tom Burgess, in 2003. "Generally the ones who are going to drop out do it after eighth grade. In sixth, seventh and eighth grade, if you can get them interested, they're less likely to drop out," Edelson said.
Between New York and Astoria, Edelson took on new challenges. She left a teaching job in Connecticut for a position in Israel. "It was cold. I wanted to go somewhere warm," she said. Intending to teach French to Israeli Army officers, she decided to take a position on a kibbutz instead.
"I grew up thinking it would be wonderful to live in a society that was nonmaterialistic," she explained. So she spent three months learning to speak Hebrew, and was teaching grades five through high school on a kibbutz in Israel on the Syrian border in 1967 during the Six Day War.
Returning to the United States, Edelson decided she wanted to share her enthusiasm for teaching with other teachers, so she enrolled at Columbia University, just blocks from her New York home, and earned a doctorate in teacher education.
Her next stop was New Mexico State University, where she supervised students who were teaching on Navajo reservations, and later put on workshops for teachers in Chihuahua, Mexico. Then it was on to San Francisco to work with teachers of autistic children, followed by a stint at Sonoma State University, where Edelson said she was disappointed with the academic level.
Edelson's next stop was Willamette University in Salem. She said her 12 years at Willamette were the highlight of her career. "We were modeling what we were teaching - helping people get out into the field with good skills, good attitude and good tools," Edelson said. "It was a wonderful way to finish my teaching career. It was the best experience I had at the college level."
These days, Edelson and Burgess, who both grew up in big cities, are enjoying the experience of living in Astoria. They rent a little studio in downtown Astoria, where Burgess, who has recently published a book of underwater imagery called "Take Me Under the Sea," does his writing, and Edelson works on her art.
"I'm trying to turn my lifetime of doodling into an art form," Edelson joked.
She said they know many people in Astoria, including people they might not have met in a bigger city. She joined a book club for the first time and is co-president of the Astoria chapter of the American Association of University Women.
"In a smaller place you get to know more diverse people. It's a different kind of diversity than in a big city," Edelson said. "We're enjoying being part of this community."