After 29 years with the Moon Area School District and 33 years as a Distributive Education Clubs of America adviser, Betty Pander will be retiring in June.
Her retirement coincides with being named the Pennsylvania DECA Advisor of the Year during the recent state competition in Hershey. Mrs. Pander suspects the honor may have been orchestrated by her DECA students, some of whom were aware of her plans to retire.
Moon Area DECA president and senior Lindsay Ottaviani said the Pennsylvania executive director for DECA had contacted her to say they had chosen Mrs. Pander for the award and worked with her to keep the recognition a surprise.
Lindsay said the honor was kept secret until about 30 minutes prior to its presentation.
Mrs. Pander was handing out programs with her name listed as the recipient at the event, when one of her students came up to her to point out her pending award. She said she was appreciative of having a few minutes to prepare an acceptance speech.
"I was very overwhelmed by it and surprised," Mrs. Pander said. "It was just so sweet."
DECA is a student organization that supports the development of marketing and management skills. Across the United States, 4,500 high schools and 200 colleges have DECA chapters boasting more than 185,000 members.
During her 33 years with DECA, Mrs. Pander said she has attended all of the district and state competitions and many of the international ones as well. Over the past several years, she has also served as the district's Quiz Bowl coach and most recently added school store faculty volunteer to her list.
In 29 years at Moon Area, she had a short stint teaching keyboarding classes, but has spent the majority of her tenure instructing marketing students.
Currently, she teaches Marketing I, II and III. Because of this, she said she is able to watch her students blossom from freshmen to seniors. She's even ushered her sons, Cliff and Jeremy Price, as well as a niece and a nephew through the district's business programming.
"What they learn here -- whether or not they go into business -- is good for their future, even as consumers," she said.
A large hole will be left in Moon Area's DECA program with the loss of Mrs. Pander, according to Lindsay, who said her teacher has inspired many students to attend college for business. She will be attending Pennsylvania State University after her graduation from Moon.
Mrs. Pander, a breast cancer survivor, has participated in Relay for Life since 2000. Her team consists of herself and various DECA students. Her DECA students participate in so many community service projects because she wants the students to learn at an early age to have a sense of responsibility and to give back to the community.
Annually, the students collect canned goods and volunteer at a food pantry as part of the Mile of Cans event hosted at Impact Christian Church on Thorn Run Road in Moon.
The students also collect for Hunger for Haiti and donate presents to the less fortunate at Christmastime.
The self-coined "lifelong learner" keeps in contact with many of her students after they graduate from high school to move on to bigger and better things.
In regards to social media, she tells her students they have to be graduates before they can become friends on Facebook.
Lindsay said she "absolutely" plans to keep in touch with her teacher after graduation as she has the closest relationship with Mrs. Pander among all of her teachers. She looks forward to graduation day, when she'll be able to "friend" the teacher who has inspired her to do so much.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org