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Orchard View teacher racks up 55 years of experience, says she's not ready to retire

Orchard View teacher Cheryl Lake started her teaching career in 1965 two days after graduating from Western Michigan University.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — It could be a state record, but even if it's not, Orchard View Public School's Mrs. Lake has been in the classroom for 55 years and counting. 

That long career in education started just two days after Lake graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

"I think it's pretty special," said Jim Nielsen, Superintendent Orchard View Public Schools.  

"She's a total legend," added fellow third grade teacher Gretchen Beauleaux.

Lake said over the years she's learned to keep education fun. It's why each day in her classroom at Cardinal Elementary she prepares for a student a joke of the day.

It's one way Lake has worked to build connections with students.

The result is a large stack of cards, letters, and gifts students and parents have sent to thank her over the years. 

"These are the kind of things that make teaching worthwhile," Lake said.

Lake estimates over the 55 years she's had more than 1,000 students in her class. Now she's teaching the grandchildren of some of the first students she taught. 

"She taught my mom and my grandma," said student Isabella Riberio Dos Santos.

"I had planned on being a teacher since I can remember," Lake said. "Teaching was always what I was going to do."

"I think 55 years in any profession is rare — for the teaching profession especially," Nielsen said.

Over the years Lake has held leadership roles in the district, state, and even on national boards. She helped write the test students need to pass to become new teachers in Michigan. 

Lake says even after 55 years, teaching is a profession she's not yet ready to walk away from, even though she's asked about that decision over and over.

"I don't have plans on retiring," Lake said.

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