April 27, 2011 Edition

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Lida Tinker poses for a photo with one of her first kindergarten classes at Hoxie Elementary School.

Tinker retiring after 38
years at Hoxie Elementary

Lida Tinker has spent the last five years of her 38-year career serving as the literacy coach for Hoxie Elementary School. She will retire at the conclusion of this school year.
Gretchen Hunt

After 38 years in education, 37 of which were at Hoxie School, Lida Tinker will retire at the end of this school year.

Serving as a kindergarten teacher for 32 years, Tinker has spent the past five years as Hoxie Elementary School's literacy coach.

Hoxie Supt. Dennis Truxler said Tinker and Hoxie are somewhat synonymous.

"When you think of Hoxie School, you have to think of Lida Tinker in the same thought," he said. "Mrs. Tinker has played a vital role in making Hoxie the great school that it is; she is one of those rare commodities that you can't replace."

Frances Green, a retired Hoxie schoolteacher, said Tinker enjoys a reputation as one of the best kindergarten teachers in the state of Arkansas.

"I always wanted to be a teacher," Tinker said.

During high school, Tinker planned to teach home economics, but learned she would have to go off to study for that position. Instead, she entered the early childhood education program at Arkansas State University and fell in love with teaching kindergarten.

"I enjoyed that it was brand new for them," Tinker said. "Everything was exciting for them, and it was exciting for me too."

She stressed that when she started teaching kindergarten they taught basic skills, such as shapes, numbers, letters and colors. That has changed over the years.

"Now most children know those skills when they come to school," she said. "Now we teach more academics in kindergarten."

Tinker said as much as she loved doing the fun things kindergarteners did years ago, she also enjoyed seeing the children meet new challenges.

"It is always a joy to see children learn to read and try to put their thoughts down onto paper during writing activities," she said. "I think we used to think they couldn't do that at that age, but they never cease to amaze me."

Green said kindergarten was definitely the right fit for Tinker.

"No one on this earth loves five-year-olds more than Lida does," she said. "She has given hundreds of kindergarteners a solid start for their schooling and has touched their families with her genuine caring and passion. She does not give up on a child. And she follows her students' lives as they grow up and have families of their own. Just ask her about a student. She will remember."

Tinker said she enjoyed teaching in different units, and a favorite for many students was her Thanksgiving unit, which included a meal. A highlight was a trip to the grocery store to purchase the items needed to prepare the meal.

"So many kids didn't realize that food came from somewhere other than a box or the frozen section," she said.

She said many former students also fondly recall reading the chapter book, "Squanto," during the unit of study.

A new position

The love of reading that Tinker shared with her kindergarteners carried over into her position as literacy coach.

When Tinker made that change, she was contemplating retirement. Hoxie was approved for a three-year grant for a literacy coach, and she was approached to see if she would be willing to take the position for three years. The program ended up being funded for four years, and Tinker stayed one additional year to help transition teachers to working without a coach.

"I really enjoyed it," she said of her time in the coach position. "I learned a lot. One thing about being a teacher - you never stop learning. The last five years have been eye openers for me in the reading and writing process in early childhood education."

Tinker said the literacy program has been a success with students being able to read and write at an earlier age.

"We've seen success in our test scores also as a result of this, as well," she said.

Advances in education during Tinker's years at Hoxie have provided many new tools for teachers to help students.

"I started when all we had was construction paper and crayons," she said. "Now we have access to so many more resources."


Tinker said she will not have trouble staying busy after her retirement.

"I do have a bucket list," she said. "There are so many things I want to do."

In addition to plans to continue to support Hoxie School, Tinker is active at Hoxie United Methodist Church and in the community. She is also a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, a professional honorary society of women educators.

She said she helps take care of elderly friends and family, enjoys working in her garden and also hopes to travel some.

"I like to read and that's one of the things I've not always had time to do like I'd like to," she said. "I will have lots of things to keep me busy.

At the top of that list will be spending time with family. She and her husband of 43 years, Lanny Tinker, have two daughters, Melanie Volner and Laura Prondzinski. They also have three grandchildren, Jordan Volner, 13, Madeleine Volner, 10, and Emma Prondzinski, six. In addition, Laura is expecting twins, a boy and a girl, to be born the first part of June.

Reception is Sunday

A retirement reception honoring Tinker will be held Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Hoxie United Methodist Church fellowship hall.

Her presence will be missed at Hoxie Elementary.

"Lida's love for the Hoxie School District and her hard work to make a difference there will be hard to replace," Green said. "She is a tiny person, but she is leaving a giant space to fill."

Truxler agreed.

"Lida is a very special Christian lady who has shared her love with hundreds of students over her 38-year career in education," he said. "I pray God blesses her retirement and that she enjoys her family - especially her grandchildren."

Everyone is invited to attend the reception on Sunday.

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