An elementary student asked his teacher, “What is retirement?” The teacher responded, “It’s like summer vacation that never ends.”
Abe Paluch, outreach educator for the Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County, recalled some memorable reactions of students and teachers to which he bid farewell over the last few months.
Paluch, affectionately known to many as “Mr. Abe,” announced he will finish out the school year and retire June 1. Paluch has been visiting classrooms in Porter County schools, both public and private, over the last seven years to help fulfill the district’s mission of educating students about waste reduction and the environment.
“We are going to miss him,” said Therese Davis, district executive director. “We really appreciated his knowledge, energy and enthusiasm for teaching others how they can make a difference in the environment.”
The easy-going Paluch connected well with children, both young and old. His boyish personality and lively presentation style often left an impression on students, making the educator a magnet for hugs, waves and shout-outs far beyond the classroom.
Paluch developed many strong professional relationships with school educators throughout his tenure with the district.
“Some people just disappear,” he said. “But I wanted to tell them I’m leaving and say goodbye. It’s a bittersweet moment, realizing I won’t be able to get inspired by the enthusiasm of the youth that I’ve been fortunate enough to teach."
Dozens of teachers throughout Porter County regularly request district programs to supplement their own curriculums, emphasize lessons or help meet Indiana State Academic Standards.
In response, sometimes Paluch toted tubs of microscopes and live red wigglers to schools and invited classroom students to examine worms while he taught the kids about vermicomposting. Other times, he would bring the Lesson of the Lorax to classes and highlight the basic needs of plants and animals and invite children to act out the story as a play.
With 11 different district programs in his repertoire, Paluch brought an energetic diversion to classroom learning with interesting subjects, animation and humor, reaching more than 6,000 students annually.
He hopes the students he taught had enjoyable, hands-on experiences that inspired them to care about the future of their community and the planet.
After June 1, he will return to work briefly to assist the district with summer camps; but after the camps are over, Paluch said he’s ready to accept some exciting new challenges that will be coming his way.
“This is a chapter in my life that’s over, and I’m ready to start the next chapter,” he said, and plans to fill his newly realized free time with travel, hobbies and even his own part-time business.
“The only regrets I’ve had in life were the times I didn’t take chances,” he said. “Taking on new challenges is the most important thing in life.”
Paluch has been enlightening individuals about the environment for the last 15 years. His experience prior to the district helped him add personal touches and knowledge to district programs.
Though his professional background is in business, working as a bank examiner and also at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, his physical move to Indiana 20 years ago to a house next to the National Lakeshore drew him to seek a career change with the national park, where he worked with school groups, led hikes and hosted campfire talks.
His career then took him to the Dunes Learning Center where he managed programs and supervised the naturalist staff.