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A bittersweet retirement for Maureen Cassarino

RANCHO SANTA FE — Maureen Cassarino is leaving an indelible imprint on the R. Roger Rowe School, its administrative staff, fellow teachers, parents, and most of all, the students who have come and gone.

After all, it’s been 27 years.

Just ask anyone on campus and they’ll echo how they don’t want her to leave.

“I did my best to talk her out of retiring but I couldn’t pull it off,” said Garret Corduan, middle school principle at R. Roger Rowe School.  “Maureen is a phenomenal teacher and the type of teacher the students don’t forget because she makes a lasting connection with them.”

Tanya Baumgardner and Lauren Showen; photo by Christina Macone-Greene
Tanya Baumgardner and Lauren Showen; photo by Christina Macone-Greene

Cassarino is closing out her year teaching eighth grade.  In total, she has dedicated 34 years to this career.

“I think that very early on, when I was 4-years-old, I knew I would be a teacher,” she said.  “All I did was play teacher as a little kid.”

However, in college, Cassarino took a detour.  She earned her liberal arts degree in music and moved to New York City in pursuit of singing.  But somehow, she always found herself working with children.

“I decided that rather than being a starving artist I would start my teaching career,” she said.

After moving to the west coast, she and Superintendent Lindy Delaney crossed paths in a parochial school they were teaching at.

“Lindy left a year before me, and the next year, she called me about a sixth grade opening and said it was a great school district,” Cassarino said.

Cassarino was interviewed and hired at the R. Roger Rowe School in Rancho Santa Fe.

“That’s how I got here,” she said.

Delaney calls Cassarino’s retirement bittersweet.

“Her absence will be felt by staff and students,” Delaney said. “Fortunately, she has helped train the other Language Ares Teachers and they are ready to continue the great work Maureen started.”

Delaney went on to say that Cassarino is an educator in every sense of the word.

Sandi Lubenow and Maureen Cassarino; photo by Christina Macone-Greene
Sandi Lubenow and Maureen Cassarino; photo by Christina Macone-Greene

While caring deeply for her students, her innovative approaches have helped students achieve their full potential.

“Maureen will be missed,” Delaney said.

Over the last 27 years, Cassarino has taught grades 4, 6, 7, and 8.

Cassarino is known for her reading and writing teaching expertise through the Columbia Reading and Writing Program.

“It’s very rewarding to hear the voice of kids, help develop their voice, and opinion,” she said.

The list of accomplishments Cassarino has reached at the Rancho Santa Fe School District is jaw-dropping.  In fact, she was this year’s Crystal Apple winner from R. Roger Rowe School through the Church of Latter Day Saints.

However, when it comes to memorable experiences, she admits that the Children’s Theatre holds a special place in her heart.  Championing it for more than 20 years, Cassarino has also written musicals the kids have performed.

Cassarino said when children have an opportunity to get up on stage, become a character and participate; it brings out something so positive.

“It’s been really lovely to see that and I’m so happy the theater program has lasted that long,” she said.

Cassarino is touched by the fact that everyone doesn’t want her to leave.  Now with her retirement party officially kicking it off, she is asked by many what she is going to do since much of her life was all about teaching.

“I have no idea how to answer that question until September hits and I don’t have a classroom to go back to,” she said. “I get emotional thinking about it.”

While Cassarino and her husband relocate to Tennessee to be closer to family, she is rather confident she will be involved with children at some level.

“I don’t need to work full-time, so it would be great to help disadvantaged kids with their literacy skills,” she said.

Looking back, Cassarino is appreciative of the amazing prospects she had at the District. “I had opportunities to grow as an educator and as a person working here,” Cassarino said. “I have met amazing parents and kids — and the kids taught me something every day.”