Educator retiring after 54 years of teaching in East Central Illinois

Educator retiring after 54 years of teaching in East Central Illinois

By: Bob Maney

By: Bob Maney

By: Bob Maney

PAXTON – Arcelia Watson is ending a tireless career in education at the end of this month – a career that spans five decades and touched the lives of hundreds of people in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school community.

"She has sprinted into retirement," said Superintendent Cliff McClure. "She has given it her all every day. Like everything else she did, she did it right."

Watson, who has taught in East Central Illinois for 54 years, including nearly 50 in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda and Paxton school districts, said she does not know what she will do after retirement.

"I'll find something to do," she said. "After all, I have a pretty long resume."

Watson, now a PBL Junior High School reading teacher, spent the first six years of her career teaching at a school in East Lynn. She spent the rest in Paxton – first at the high school and the last 40 at the junior high, where she has instructed English and reading.

During her career, Watson has influenced decades of students, as well as a large group of present-day teachers in the PBL district, many of whom were at last week's retirement party.

Watson had nothing but good things to say about many of her former students.

For instance, she said about former student Jeff Graham: "He was a good student who worked hard."

Of course, Watson probably would not have wanted to say anything bad about the man who is now her boss at the junior high.

Meanwhile, her former students and co-workers said good things about Watson.

"She is just remarkable," said Graham, praising her enthusiasm for life.

Pat Prina, who has worked with Watson for 37 years, called her "a great disciplinarian."

"She made it easy for myself and other (physical education) teachers who would get her kids the next period," Prina said.

The differences in the teaching profession have changed little since Watson started, she said.

"The students of today are much the same as they were 50 years ago," Watson said. "They want love and respect, and they also want discipline."

Watson said the majority of students want to learn and want to succeed.

"I think we spend too much time worrying about those who don't want to succeed and not enough time worrying about those that do," she said.

The biggest change, she said, is the attitude of parents. "They are much more permissive today," she said.

Also, Watson said it appears today's students know more about the world and society "because of television and the Internet."

Watson said today's teachers are much like the ones she knew when she started teaching – "They are very prepared, and they want to do a good job," she said. But the respect given to teachers has changed for the worse.

Watson remembers a talk she heard in the 1990s at a convention with President Bill Clinton, in which "he told us he thought the job we had to do was more important than his," she said.

Watson is a big sports fan and goes to numerous events.

She recently attended the Indianapolis 500 time trials. "I've attended many NASCAR races and also about 45 Indianapolis 500 races," Watson said. "I even went to road races when they were held at Indianapolis."

To the dismay of many of her students, she is a Green Bay Packers fan. "The kids like the Bears," she said with a laugh.

And she is a big University of Illinois fan, too. She has served as an usher at sports events at Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall for many years. Watson's present duties are in the area where the press and private boxes are.

"(Former PBL teacher) Sue Benear got me interested," Watson said. "When I first started it was strictly a volunteer position, but now we get paid."

Watson also stays busy by working at concerts at the Assembly Hall. "It's great getting to see someone like Elton John or Shania Twain."

she said.

Watson also likes to travel. She has gone to Europe, Asia and South America. Among her favorite places are the Vatican and Red Square in Moscow.

"Probably my favorite place was The Great Wall of China," she said.

Watson is looking forward to continuing her travels with her family, son Dennis Watson of Terre Haute, Ind., and daughter Susan Allen of Milford, and her five grandchildren.


Tell us their stories

We would like to recognize retiring teachers, principals and superintendents in the upcoming weeks in The News-Gazette. Please send us information about retiring educators, their years of service and the schools they have worked at. Include a recent photograph.
Send the information to, with “retiring educator” in the subject line. Call 351-5638 for more information.




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