After 38 years in the field of education, Emil Kopcha delivered his last morning announcement as the principal of Sunset Ridge School on Monday, June 16. Kopcha officially entered retirement following his last day on Friday, June 20.

He said he will miss working with the students, staff and parents.

"I keep saying this is a really bittersweet kind of a leaving, because it's hard after 38 years," said Kopcha. "I'm not jumping to go to another job. I will probably still stay doing something in education, but I'm not sure exactly what."

Although his future plans for work are still undecided, Kopcha said he would be interested in helping students who want to become teachers or assisting new principals in their roles. "I find that gratifying; helping others to do well in education," said Kopcha.

But with the full-time working career chapter of his life closed, Kopcha is looking forward to continuing in his role as the director of the Saint Thomas Church choir in Southington. An experienced piano and organ player, Kopcha said he also plans on playing weddings to stay involved with music.

To enjoy his retirement with a little rest and relaxation, Kopcha said he plans to spend time at his cottage in Rhode Island.

Kopcha spent the first half of his career with the Plymouth Public Schools as a high school, music and elementary school teacher. In 1995, he took on the role as supervisor of all the music and arts programs across 14 schools in East Hartford. He held that role for 15 years before he had the opportunity to further utilize his background in music and arts to help develop a new school in town – Sunset Ridge - which opened in 2010. Sunset Ridge is located on Forbes Street and is a choice school, serving grades four through six with a focus on arts and world languages.

Kopcha said the development and implementation of this theme-based school is his proudest accomplishment as a professional educator.

"I was given that opportunity by this Board of Education," said Kopcha. "I don't think too many people ever have the chance to start from scratch. They asked me to come up with an idea, and I got a tremendous amount of support. They allowed us to develop labs and put keyboards in and world language labs and things so that I could develop this as I wanted to, and I found that to be probably the most gratifying opportunity in my entire 38 years."

Kopcha said Daniel Catlin will take over as principal of Sunset Ridge in the fall. Catlin's most recent position was as vice principal at O'Connell Elementary School on May Road.

"In the 19 years I have been here in East Hartford, I have just met so many great people throughout the entire district and working with the outside arts organizations and museums and stuff like that, we've been able to bring in and give kids opportunities in the arts. It's just something that I've always wanted to do, and I think I can walk away knowing that the kids had some great opportunities, and I feel good about that," said Kopcha.