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Retiring teacher leaves legacy for students, families

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Nov 24, 2020

Nancy Benjamin

After 37 years in the Lee County School District and 19 years at Pine Island Elementary, Nancy Benjamin is retiring from teaching.

Principal Millins has nominated her teacher of the year, and says she is beloved, describing her as an awesome person, educator and friend, who always goes above and beyond. He explained unreservedly to the nominating committee what he thought were some of the defining attributes of this special teacher.

“Ms. Benjamin provides a wonderful class structure creating a setting that is both warm and respectful, in which her students can achieve and grow in a caring family environment,”he said. “As the school year progresses, the reason students in her class develop into responsible and respectful youth, is made evident. It is amazing  to see how the students love her teaching and embrace her loving mannerisms that make her so special.”

Close friends and fellow teachers say she has her own brand of wisdom and offers it effortlessly to her students year after year.

Long-time friend Cindy McClung said when she thinks of Benjamin, what most stands out is her smile. “She’s just such a giving person,” said McClung. “She volunteers at Helping Paws shelter, and her church, she would take kids to MangoMania to pick up trash. She’s always taking time to help people and always thinks of others. She’s just a good person.”

Fellow Pine Island Elementary School teacher Monica Renz said evidence of time well spent as a teacher is that Benjamin remains in contact with some of her first students who are now adults with families of their own.

“She still has gifts, drawings and little notes they gave her when they were in kindergarten,” said Renz. “She doesn’t forget her students, or families she works with. She really builds relationships with kids outside of academics, because she’s interested in what’s going on in their lives outside the classroom.” Renz said an important thing to know about Benjamin is how much she loves her students and that it goes well beyond the classroom. Overall, Renz said, Benjamin never gives up.

“She has weeks left in the classroom and she’s still working as hard as she did on her first day. She’s still planning as hard as she ever has, when most people at this stage of the game might check out.”

Retirement couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as Benjamin is currently expecting her first grandchild. In addition to spending time with the new baby, Renz said Benjamin would like to do some traveling.

“If someone needs something, Nancy is there behind the scenes helping,” said Renz. “She’s been a joy to work with.”

Benjamin also taught at Tropic Isles Elementary and Michigan Elementary in Lee County.