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Susan Routson, longtime physical education teacher and spearhead of walk to benefit Carroll Food Sunday, retires

Longtime educator Susan Routson retires

For almost four decades, Susan Routson has gotten up each day and gone to work to try to help kids live a physically fit life.

On a Wednesday in June, Routson walked across the gym at Runnymede Elementary School to start setting up equipment. She pulled out metal poles on wheels normally used to hold up nets, and tied one end of a jump rope to it. She then set up a number of small cones, all while guiding a class of children into a straight line.

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Then, she started swinging the other end of the jump rope, counting to help the kids judge when to run in and try to jump the rope. Some hopped in with ease, while others couldn’t quite get the timing right. For those who struggled, Routson stopped the rope and started again, encouraging them to give it another go and cheering them on when they found success.

Routson has taught physical education in the Carroll County Public Schools system for 38.5 years. Friday, June 15 is her last day as she heads into a life of retirement.

For Routson, the decision to retire after so many years was “bittersweet.”

“I really love the kids and I really really like my job,” she said, “but I think it’s time.”

Someone once told her she’d know when it’s time to go, and Routson said she knows that time is now.

Routson’s career started as an assistant at what was then the Center for Exceptional Children, now known as Carroll Springs School. She spent one-half year in the position before being hired into a full-time job split between Northwest Middle and Taneytown Elementary schools. It was at Northwest where she met her husband, she said, and they spent 34 years carpooling to work.

The position at Northwest was cut after three years, but Routson said she spent 15 years at Taneytown Elementary before moving to Runnymede Elementary when it opened.

Originally from Chestertown, Routson went to the former Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, and landed a job that kept her working in Carroll all these years, despite living in Lutherville.

Routson said she thought she was going to be a kindergarten teacher, but was encouraged to go into physical education.

“I was probably one of the most unlikely PE teachers there,” she said.

But, she added, she’s one of the last few from her graduating class still teaching.

For Routson, it was the kids who got her out of bed every day to come to work.

“The kids are fun, they keep you young,” she said.

And what’s wonderful about teaching in the same portion of the county for so many years, she said, is that she’s now on her third generation in families. It’s pretty cool to get to watch students she taught grow into adults, get jobs and have their own kids, she added.

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Life at Runnymede wasn’t just about teaching physical education for Routson. She also began and has run a walk to raise money for Carroll Food Sunday that began 20 years ago. When she first began at Runnymede, Routson said, they tried to do another fundraiser with a different organization, but it didn’t work out, she said.

“I said that I would be happy to do a fundraiser because my principal really thought that community service was important and I thought it was, too,” she said.

And so, the walk to benefit Food Sunday was born. And over the two decades the school has worked to give back, they’ve raised more than $177,000. Just this past year alone, they raised over $10,000.

Routson said it’s important for the kids to learn how to do things for others who need help.

“People need food and it was something that [the kids] understood completely,” she said.

And Food Sunday is a great organization, she said, because all of the money that goes to them goes back to the residents of Carroll.

On June 13, Routson was recognized at a volunteers appreciation event at Runnymede Elementary. She was presented with a handmade quilt that incorporated all of the T-shirts from every walk from over the 20-year span.

She was also recognized with a proclamation from Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who was in attendance.

“Your school has done something that no other school has done,” Wantz told the students, referring to their work with Carroll Food Sunday.

Together, Wantz said, the students at Runnymede, with the help of Routson, have fought hunger.

And while Routson is retiring, she’s not done giving back to the community.

“I’m probably going to substitute or have another part-time job and do some traveling,” she said.

And, she’s going to be on the board for Carroll Food Sunday, something Edward Leister, executive director, revealed at the volunteer ceremony.

“You’re a member as of yesterday,” Leister told Routson after the event, adding that he hopes she’ll be the youth events coordinator so she can continue involvement with the walk at Runnymede.

Routson said she’s excited to get to be on the board, because she wants to expand the children’s involvement.

This year, she said, she had students come and sort canned goods. The kids can’t work directly with clients because of privacy issues, Routson said, but they can work behind the scenes.

“I just feel like it’s really important for them. They get it when they go there,” she said.

For Routson, there is some excitement about what the next chapter of her life holds. But no matter where it takes her, Runnymede and her time in CCPS will never be far from her mind.

“Runnymede is a great place to be,” she said, her voice full of emotion. “We have wonderful teachers and wonderful students.”

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