It’s the day after youngsters have returned to classrooms, where they will form relationships that can last a lifetime. In many cases, those relationships also involve a special teacher.

One retired Penn Yan Elementary teacher who spent most of her career with third graders has stayed in touch with many of her former students, often sending cards and notes or attending special events in their lives. “There’s nothing more special than something other than bills in the mail,” says Elaine Gleason, explaining why she likes to send kind messages to relatives, friends, former students, and other retired educators. 

Gleason has been to bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers, and she stays in touch with former students on Facebook, but greeting cards are one of her favored ways to maintain connections.

“Cards are my thing, I guess,” explains Gleason, who can often been seen in the card aisle at Longs’ Cards & Books in Penn Yan. She says her husband, P. Earle “Duddy,” jokes that she must have stock in Hallmark.

Gleason spent most of her teaching years in a third grade classroom in Penn Yan. After spending two years in Seneca Falls, she came to her alma mater, and taught first, second, and third grades, modeling her own career after one of her favorite teachers, Barbara Shamp. 

Declaring third grade can be “a monumental year for a student,” Gleason says the youngsters often won her heart, and she just wanted to keep a connection to them over time.

She says one particular class formed a bond early in the school year, and those students are still very special to her. The class was the group of students she had to face on Sept. 11, 2001, continuing their school work despite the 9/11 terrorist attack. Although she and other teachers were aware of the horror of the attack, they were instructed to not discuss it with students until the following day, after the children had time to talk with their parents.

The aftermath of that horrible experience became woven into her relationship with those students.  “We bonded for a long time,” she says.

Gleason, who is also the “Friendly Service Coordinator” of the Yates County Retired Teachers, says she isn’t the only one who stays in touch with former students. She’s aware of one teacher who even made personalized cards.

“Sending cards to students and friends is a joy. It means a lot to me to hear, ‘Thank you for thinking of me.’ It is a great way to stay connected in this busy world.”