Members of the Empire community celebrated the career of a retiring science teacher at a reception Monday at the Empire Community Center.

Ken “Pick” Pickard’s 36-year career comes to an end Friday. And more than 30 people, coming and going, attended the reception to pay respects to Pickard.

“It’s been very rewarding,” he said. “I don’t think I’d trade it for anything else I’ve done.”

He spent 22 years teaching several types of sciences, such as biology, physics, chemistry and anatomy at Empire High School. He coached basketball and football for 15 years and baseball for 28 years.

“That’s my love,” he said. “You can usually find me at baseball games around here.”

Toward the beginning of the two-hour reception, Pickard was presented with an Empire Bulldogs jacket and a plaque.

He began teaching in 1969, taught a year at a military school, came to Empire in 1983 looking for a job in science and was drawn to the opportunity to coach. He said coaching had a large part to do with him getting into teaching.

“I miss coaching baseball,” he said. “Football, no.”

Pickard said he stayed in Empire because he enjoyed it.

“I was treated well,” he said. “And I had a good group of kids.”

Although he enjoyed teaching, he said he felt he needed to move on from teaching.

“It’s been a good life,” he said. “I just got burned out.”

Throughout his years in Empire, he has been the secretary of the Stephens County Athletics Association, was selected as the 1989 and 1999 teacher of the year, and was chosen several times as The Duncan Banner coach of the year.

Pickard said he did not have plans for after-retirement life. “People ask me what I’m going to do,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know.”

But with retirement, he will be able to focus on his hobbies, which include collecting baseball cards and other memorabilia and attending athletic events.

The time has come for him to retire he said, although the concept is still new to him.

“I’m a little shaky about it (retiring),” he said. “It has its pros and cons. So far, the pros outweigh the cons.”

He said the purpose of his job was to make productive citizens.

“It’s important because I’m teaching kids discipline or at least trying to,” he said. “It’s getting more and more difficult. I’m trying to make the students better citizens.

“Teaching is about trying to teach the younger generation respect and discipline.”

Over the years, he has taught many students. Recently, he has taught the children of his former students. Some of the children have already graduated.

“I’ll miss the relationships with faculty, administrators and students,” he said.

But he said he would not miss changes in teaching methods.

“Teaching methods are now about passing state skills tests,” he said. “They want you to teach the test. I don’t believe in teaching just for tests.”

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