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Goodbye, for now

By Rebecca Rider

I know what you’re thinking: “Another Post reporter’s leaving; there must be something wrong with that paper.” Right?

Wrong. My decision to leave the Post was a difficult one and was not born of any faults on the paper’s part. The truth is, I loved my job. I’ve loved working here. But sometimes, the best decisions aren’t the easiest ones.

As a Rowan County native, and as someone who attended Rowan-Salisbury Schools, working at the Post has been a special privilege.

There’s a story I like to tell about my time as education reporter. It’s December 2015, and I’ve just walked into Landis Elementary School for one of my very first interviews on the education beat. Brooke Zehmer, the principal, says she invited a teacher to join in, and we wait for her to arrive. The teacher walks in and sits down, and I find that I am sitting across the table from my first-grade teacher’s assistant — now a teacher in her own right.

Another: I visit Rockwell Elementary to interview Jennifer Warden after she’s been named principal. She’s at the desk in the office, looking through an old yearbook with my fourth-grade math teacher. “Here’s you in kindergarten,” Warden says, pointing at a photo.

Another: My middle school librarian picks me out of a crowd and surprises me with a hug.

Another: Rita Foil tells me about a community school visit I missed at Rockwell Elementary. “The school grounds are beautiful,” she says. “There are so many flowers!” She doesn’t know that my mother, who had just retired the previous year, planted those flowers and spent her summers tending the grounds.

Another: A boy from one of my college literature classes is now a CCAC teacher.

Another: “You always did love to write,” a former teacher says.

Another: My eighth-grade math teacher is now the principal of a local private school.

Another: “How’s your mother enjoying retirement?” asks teacher, after teacher, after teacher, after teacher.

My life has been tightly wound with local education since I started kindergarten, so getting to cover school news felt right, in many ways.

Then there were the new things. I got to delve deep into the people and the community I’d always been a part of. I got to see another side of education. I got to listen to teachers talk about their passions. I got to watch students learn and grow from year to year.

I loved that — I loved being so involved in people’s lives. And that’s why I had to leave.

There are, of course, several reasons. My health is a big one. A few too many six- or seven-hour meetings and 14-hour days is another. Mostly, however, I wanted to be more involved. I wanted to be able to celebrate with people, to grieve with them, to offer suggestions and help them on their journeys. Those aren’t really things that you can do as a reporter.

So I’m moving on. In a few days ,I’ll start a new job with the Family Crisis Council. I’ve always loved advocacy work, and that’s what I’ll be doing. I still plan to write freelance, so I’ll still be around, but my days of chasing down — literally, on more than one occasion — stories full time are over.

Still, leaving the Post is probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since a 10th-grade news writing class. And the Post has been my home since I interned here in the summer of 2013. I’ve loved working here with all my heart, and I will love it all my life.

So thank you. Thank you for your warmth. Thank you for inviting me along to help tell your stories. Thank you for challenging me. It’s been a privilege.

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