PERRYVILLE — Steven Chrismer has traded in his Cecil County Public Schools lanyard in for a new title: Grandpa On Duty.
After 43 years at Perryville High School, Chrismer retired Friday. His next job will be taking care of his grandson Benjamin.
“Children are an inheritance from the Lord, an heirloom,” Chrismer said, citing Psalm 127. “I’ve got to protect that heirloom.”
Although he planned to teach another three years, Chrismer told those attending a going away party that he is leaving mid-year to tend to the newborn with his wife.
Along with teachers and current students, the well-wishers included former students and local officials. Theodore Boyer, principal of the school on Perryville Road, called Chrismer “a living legend.”
“He’s a man who touched a lot of lives,” Boyer said, adding Chrismer was the right person for the profession. “Any person can be a good teacher but you want someone who cares about kids.”
Chrismer was also characterized as a wealth of knowledge on a broad range of topics.
“On Friday mornings I’ll get the summary of all the basketball games the night before,” Boyer said.
However he was also a huge fan of “The Wizard of Oz,” noted Jill Welsheimer, music teacher.
“When Mr. Chrismer heard we were doing ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ he got excited,” Welsheimer said of the spring musical. She said Chrismer had dug deep into the L. Frank Baum classic.
“He had all the back story,” she said, adding he explained to her how each of the characters in the story represented some societal element. For example, the Tin Man represented industry. In appreciation, some of the cast performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and promised him free tickets to the show in April.
“They want to show you how much they appreciate everything you’ve done for Perryville in the best way they know how,” she said. “We appreciate all your wisdom, puns and all your thoughtful gestures.”
As he accepted each honor Chrismer gave out fist bumps, puns and one-liners.
“They would never let me sell ice cream because that would require good humor,” Chrismer quipped.
Jeff Lawson, superintendent of Cecil County Public Schools, said Chrismer embodies the local school system with his “people first” way of interacting with students and staff. He added Chrismer was an oddity by spending his entire career at the same school.
“When I look at professional role models, I consider him to be one,” Lawson said, giving Chrismer a GEM Award. It means “going the extra mile” and it’s a colleague-to-colleague recognition program.
“You could always count on Mr. Chrismer to bring a smile to your face with the latest “dad joke.” Mr. Chrismer is the kind of teacher whose impact stays with his students long after they have left his classroom. His love of learning and teaching inspires his students and colleagues alike with a positive and uplifting spirit that never falters,” the award reads.
Lawson said people like Chrismer make a school a community.
“We do really hard work day in and day out. If we don’t have each other on our hearts day by day, the work doesn’t get done,” Lawson said. “Steve is an absolute credit to this school.”
He didn’t start out that way. He was once told he was “too obnoxious and arrogant to teach,” Chrismer recalled. Not long after, he became a born-again Christian, which he credits with his changed life.
“God pours His love into our hearts that over flows and is poured into you,” he explained. He said even though he had opportunities to go elsewhere he always stayed. “I fell like the Lord told me to stay here.”
Over those 43 years, he’s had a front seat to a lot of young lives; 7,860 to be exact.
“I’ve seen some couples meet their spouses here. I’ve been to weddings,” he said. “I’ve also been there for lost parents.”
Perryville Commissioner Pete Reich spoke on behalf of the mayor and commissioners, proclaiming Jan. 24 “Steven Chrismer Day” in town. A retired mathematician, Reich ran the numbers on Chrismer’s career, which included 38,000 lesson plans.
“You gave out 32,000 homework assignments ... and of course all those years of parent-teacher conferences,” Reich said.
Wib Pumpaly, Charlestown town administrator, Port Deposit Mayor Wayne Tome and Dr. Alan Mc Carthy, Cecil County Executive, also honored Chrismer on his last day of teaching. Tome was one of his students.
“You taught me the relevance of history and the value of paying attention,” Tome said.
Boyer expects to continue to see Chrismer’s shadow in the hallways.
“Your spirit is going to be here with us,” Boyer said.
Lawson said he hoped when he reaches Chrismer’s age he too can retire with a smile.
“Steve, you’re a blessed man,” he said.
Chrismer promised to come back for graduation.