“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” -Herman Cain
In 1986 Miss Maria Rivera began her teaching career at G.C. Burkhead Elementary School. The 3rd grade teacher was a University of Kentucky Graduate with big brown eyes and an unforgettable smile. As a 22-year-old with a petite build and the gift of height not on her side, Miss Rivera was mistaken for a student a few times.
In August of 1987, Miss Rivera became Mrs. Chaney. She gave birth to her first son, James Phillip, in April 1990. She took a leave of absence from teaching and sat out the 1991-1992 school year because her second son, Cameron, was due on the first day.
During summer of 1992 Mrs. Chaney was hired at Lincoln Trail Elementary to teach 2nd/3rd grade. In June of 1993 she welcomed her third and final baby, Mallory Kathleen… that’s me! My mom liked the idea of taking another year off to raise her children, but she knew it would be hard to get hired back at the school she loved. She was one busy momma working full-time with three babies!
My mom remained at Lincoln Trail teaching grades 2-4 and working as a part time guidance counselor/part time title one teacher until the end of the 2008 school year, 16 years total. The desire to be a full-time guidance counselor led her to apply for the job at a brand new school, Heartland Elementary. She got the job! Though leaving Lincoln Trail was a sad switch, my mom was excited for the adventures that lie ahead at a new school. Mrs. Chaney is the only guidance counselor that Heartland has ever known… she is the only one who has worked in her office for the last 11 years… until now.
After 31.5 years of teaching, Mrs. Chaney is retiring!
As a junior in high school my mom knew she wanted to be a teacher. When the North American Christian Convention came to Louisville, mom was one of many college and high school students who worked as chaperones/babysitters for the kids. After working as camp counselor that same summer, mom realized she enjoyed working with kids and felt like she knew what to do with them. Her former dreams of becoming an astronaut and a newspaper reporter were swept under the rug as this new aspiration of teacher emerged. In 1986 she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from UK and began her career a few months later.
Growing up as a teacher’s kid certainly had its advantages. Every teacher in the school knew you before the first day of class, if you forgot money or a permission slip you had your parent there to bail you out, you never had to worry about being on time for school, no having to ride the bus to/from school, your parent was able to see every play, talent show and awards ceremony, and on a hard day it was comforting to know your parent was just around the corner.
There were certainly disadvantages like having to be at school at the normal time even when there was a snow delay, not being able to get away with anything, having higher expectations for grades and behavior placed on your shoulders, and having to stay late every day after class. We spent a lot of time in that school building!
Honestly, though, I loved every minute of sharing a school with my mother. I was excited to be a student in her second grade class so that I could spend every hour with my mom. Some days this was overkill… for both of us. (I was an annoying, chatty 7-year-old and mom had no escape from me.) But I only remember the feeling of safety as my mom kept her eyes on me. I knew I was taken care of, I knew I could be myself, I knew I was learning and growing, and I knew I would have fun every day. I was the proudest student in that class because the beautiful, smart, kind-hearted, funny teacher standing before the class was MY mom. She was my hero in every possible way and at that point in time I decided I also wanted to be a 2nd grade teacher.
Mrs. Chaney was known as the nice teacher. Throughout our school years whenever other students would find out that my brothers and I were Mrs. Chaney’s kids they would say things such as, “She’s the nicest teacher I ever had!” “She was always smiling.” “She is so beautiful!” I always took pride in knowing our mom was remembered for her kindness and joy.
My mom is one of the lucky few who can truly say she loved her job. Of course there were many days when retirement could not come soon enough. There were long hours, and sacrifices made, there were frustrations and sleepless nights, and heartbreaking situations with students. Mom embraced all aspects of the job and worked as hard as she could. We gave her a hard time about working until 5 pm, going in over the weekend and doing paperwork while we watched our evening shows. But every sacrifice she made, every extra hour she worked was for the benefit of a child… for the benefit of countless children.
In her near 32 years, my mother loved thousands of children, she advocated on their behalf, she served their needs, she taught them how to succeed academically and in life, she helped them cope with their emotions and problems, she listened as they confided their worries, fears and happy moments, she helped them to make good choices and pick up the pieces after making ones that were bad. My mother displayed true love to her students through the unforgettable smile they could always count on, with her hugs and warm embrace, with her encouraging words, with her discipline and push to make them better, with her willingness to do anything for anyone.
My mom truly loved her students, her co-workers, her schools and her career. How many people are lucky enough to actually feel bittersweet on their retirement day?
Mom is excited for her new chapter of life, as a full time “Granny Nanny” taking care of her almost 1-year-old granddaughter, Isla Grace. She’s excited to put her family first. Her husband, my dad, is possibly even more excited!
As a daughter I am incredibly proud of my mother for her dedication as an educator. I don’t know how she was able to manage working full time, being a wife, raising three kids so close in age, staying plugged in at church, and always being at every game, competition, performance and recital. She is a super woman in my eyes!
To my sweet mom, thank you (and dad) for your hard work and sacrifices to provide for the boys and me. Thank you for teaching us not only academic knowledge but vital life skills, love, forgiveness, joy and how to laugh at ourselves. Thank you for raising us to know Jesus. We are so proud of you and so excited for your next chapter in life. The best is yet to come!
Loving words about Mrs. Chaney:
“She has the most warm welcoming smile that radiates where ever she is and what ever she is doing. An amazing educator who was a blessing to all.”
“She was a very sweet person. She always had smile on her face. I worked with her at Lincoln Trail Elementary many years. She always come in kitchen in the morning to get ice and always had nice things to say. She was very good with kids and all around wonderful person and teacher, loved her very much💕💜❤️“
“I’m not sure if my kids ever had this amazing woman as a teacher but I know anyone that did was the recipient of a very positive impact on their lives. I first met this sweet lady when I coached her children in softball. One of her children wasn’t really interested in playing and was just as happy picking flowers in the field. 😀 She showed me that accepting your child’s natural traits is loving them well. Congratulations sweetie!! Well deserved! And that new career progression sounds awesome!”
“My son was absolutely terrified of starting school this year, I was nervous as well. It’s never easy sending your baby to be cared for by people you don’t know well. But, Maria made a point to help Levi transition and reassure me that he was ok! She has been a beautiful blessing to us and will be missed dearly at Heartland!!”
“My lunch buddy at the wobbling round table, where we could solve all the world problems, if only they had asked. Love this friend of mine for many years.”
“Loved working with your mom. She was always so kind, sweet and had a smile to greet everyone. ❤️“
“Maria was an outstanding teacher for all three of my kids. There are so many memories over the years that include you, Ciara, Maria, and myself. One thought that jumps to mind is when she and I would try to remain straight faced during speech competitions. We couldn’t look at each other or we would bust out laughing! Many, many good memories! She was always smiling and positive.”
“I was not a student, but I was a teacher many years ago. You were in a class of fifth graders my first year in the profession. I remember your sweet smile and gentle nature, symbolic of the kind person and wonderful educator that you have been for the last 32 years. While we have not been in contact, I’ve followed your career through students you’ve had and through two of your children. I’ve been blessed to know Mallory and Cam, two wonderful people. I know the kind of teacher and counselor you have been by the kind of children you raised. As you move into your retirement years, know the impact you’ve had on children is incalculable. And up above, the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” are resonating in celebration of you. Enjoy! So proud of you.”
“I remember Maria being one of the new young teachers hired at Lincoln Trail! I remember going through my stash of “teacher things” and giving her some materials to use in her classroom until she could get her own. Wow, how could that be 32 years ago? I was blessed to work with such a kind and caring teacher like Maria for several years before I retired. I was also blessed to have her son Cameron in my last class I had before retiring. She was not only a wonderful teacher, but a very supportive mother as well. I’m blessed to call her my friend. Congratulations Maria! This next adventure is your best yet! 😊“
“She was my counselor at LTE. She was always so kind & loving. She had a great style & always wore the cutest outfits. You could definitely see that she lit up every room she walked in & constantly showed the love of Jesus! She is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever known!!! So happy for her!!”
“Congratulations, Maria! Here’s a memory from a parent of a former student. When Taylor had Maria in the second grade, I’d try to help her with her grammar lessons. Taylor would be confused on something, and no matter how I tried, she’d insist her misunderstanding was correct because “Mrs Chaney said so.” I had to have Maria explain to Taylor that her mommy was an English teacher and could be trusted. It took Mrs Chaney’s stamp of approval before Taylor would believe me about English. 😀
“I could say so many wonderful things about Maria. I have been friends with her for over 30 years! I was also lucky enough to teach with for our first three years. ALSO my son, Kyle, had this wonderful woman as his 4th grade teacher. She is a wonderful example of a perfect teacher. Love you Maria!”
“I loved my time with Maria at Heartland!! She was so helpful as I transitioned into teaching a new class and making me feel welcomed! ❤️”