At some point along the 150 miles of the Yukon River in Alaska that Len Bostian canoed last summer, the longtime work-study teacher at Towson High began to think about his future.
"I had a lot of time to think," Bostian said, "and I'm thinking, 'I'd like to do a lot more of this.' "
When school ends this month at Towson High, Bostian will retire after 45 years of teaching in Baltimore County, 36 of those years spent at Towson High.
Likewise, Al Olsen, who has been teaching chemistry at Towson High for 32 years, will also retire.
Both men leave behind thousands of students they have taught, and a much different Towson High School than the one they came to years ago.
"When I started here, it was really preppy," said Bostian, 66, of Jarrettsville, remarking that Towson High resembled a private school. "We're talking kids with green pants and shirts and ties and loafers with no socks. That's not here anymore. This school is very diverse now."
"It's a totally different population," Olsen, 66, of Delta, Penn., said. "It's a much different school — but still a really good school."
They both say it is the quality of Towson High that has been a primary reason both have stayed so long.
Bostian said that in his role as referee for Towson High lacrosse, he often advocated for Towson High to parents.
"I would not send my kids to a private school if they could go to Towson High — save that money for college," he told them. "We can do as much here as any private school is going to do for a kid."
"If I were in another school in the county somewhere, I'd have done my 30 and probably been gone. I never missed time because I like coming in here."
Both Bostian and Olsen came to teaching indirectly. Bostian studied to be an accountant at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and was required to student teach in his final year. He liked the classroom environment so much that he turned down an accounting job and went straight to teaching instead.
Olsen, who studied chemistry, said he was drawn to teaching because it's about building relationships.
"I like people and I don't like being in a lab," he said. "I just have fun. It's a joy to come into the building and teach."
Olsen began teaching at Ridgely Junior High in 1969, and moved to Towson High in 1981 when ninth-grade classes were moved to high schools.
He's seen less change in his subject matter over the years than other teachers because, as he said, basic chemistry is basic chemisty, but he's always found it easy to connect with students and motivate them.
"It's just my personality and being able to get along with them, just chiding them in the right direction, pushing them without being mean-spirited or nasty to them," Olsen said.
Principal Jane Barranger said both Bostian and Olsen have set a good example for young teachers
"It's an excellent role model, that basically you come every day, do your job, respect the students, and you're going to have a long career," Barranger said. "Both gentlemen had very positive attitudes, and that does it. They weather the changes — they've seen several changes throughout their careers — but they were always positive, always looking at the bright side of things, and understand that the changes really were for the better and they helped the kids."
Barranger acknowledged that come next school year, there certainly would be a void at Towson High — starting around 5:45 a.m. when early-risers Bostian and Olsen would typically arrive each morning.
"This is a happening place in the morning," Barranger said.
Olsen plans to travel and visit friends and family around the country in his retirement. Bostian plans to spend more time outdoors, and with his three daughters and 10 grandchildren.
His plans also include something he has only dreamed about doing.
"I've always wanted to do camping in the fall, but I've never been able to do it because of school," Bostian said. "My plan is the first day of school, I'm going to be camping — and it's going to be different."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun