Transitioning to retirement

August 12, 2013

Judith Hoye

Judith Hoye's career in education spanned two cities and five decades. She's worked on an occasional basis for nearly a decade, taught in elementary school classrooms for 15 years, served as her federation's president, became a principal, and then moved on to be the superintendent of her board.

Judith never imagined herself not working. And then one day, after 35 years, she woke up and decided that she was ready to make the leap to retirement.

Judith started her career in Toronto in 1969, then moved to Ottawa four years later. Over the course of the next eight years, she worked on an occasional basis, and started a family of her own, taking three maternity leaves. By the early 1980s, she landed a full-time job as an elementary school teacher.

"For the next eight years I taught in the same school, which I loved. But, I knew it was time to make myself move on. You have to keep taking advantage of opportunities, so your career never gets dull."

Judith served as the president of her teachers' federation, and worked her way up to principal of an elementary school. Eventually, she took a job with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and served as superintendent.

"In my 35th year of working, I just woke up one day, as they all say you'll do, and I wondered to myself how much longer I could continue to go to all of the late-night meetings, when I am eligible for an unreduced pension," she recalled.

"Within a week, I handed in my retirement letter. Six weeks later, I was retired and I started to really live."

Not everyone is like Judith. For some, the decision of when to retire can take years to finalize. But, regardless of how long it takes you to make the decision, everyone admits that it takes a while to adjust to this new life.

"The best advice I received was from a woman I sang with in a choir of retired teachers. She told me to not over-commit myself right away, to give myself a little bit of time.

"Take it easy. Read the books and do the things you said you wanted to do, but never had time to. You have to develop another life, and it doesn't have to be around education," Judith says.

"Just breathe deeply for a little while, and life will come to you."

While she and her husband have pledged to take a trip to a new place each year – so far they've explored China, Iceland, Galapagos Islands, Turkey and beyond – she finds herself keeping busy at home too.

Her involvement in organizations like the United Way and OttawaReads is a continuation of her community involvement during her working years. While superintendent, she headed up the board's community relations board. Since she retired, she's discovered that she's passionate about maintaining this aspect of her career.

"There are a lot of things besides work in this world. Work was our life for so long. When we retired, a whole new world opened up," she says. "Certainly you're not as busy. Instead of doing four things at once, you do one. But you do the thing that you love and are passionate about."