Southampton teacher retiring after 43 years

Published 8:45 am Saturday, June 9, 2012

COURTLAND—For the first time in 59 years, David Witt will not return to school in the fall.

A Spanish teacher at Southampton High School for 43 years, Witt is retiring.

“It’s going to be a big change,” he said. “I’ve been in school since I was 6 years old, when I started first grade. I have not been out of school once.”

Although the high school will continue to offer Spanish, budget cuts mean Witt will not be replaced.

“I regret that this will happen,” he said. “The need for foreign language and for Spanish in particular is growing.”

Principal Allene Atkinson regrets Witt’s departure.

“Obviously, I do not want him to leave,” Atkinson said. “I don’t want any of our retirees to leave. He has been a dedicated person for 43 years, a phenomenal educator. We simply just wish him health and happiness.”

Originally from Bedford in western Virginia, Witt graduated from The College of William & Mary, and at age 21, was hired to teach in Southampton County.

“I felt like I was doing a good thing,” the 64-year-old said about never going elsewhere. “It was steady income, and I didn’t want to take the chance with my family by moving on.”

Over the years, Witt taught Spanish I through Spanish V.

“Not all at one time, but as they were offered,” he said.

Witt finds that a foreign language teaches students how to think and how to learn.

Over the years, the biggest change he experienced was the attitude toward education.

“When I started, there was a kind of acceptance for a need for an education,” Witt said. “Most of the kids did their homework. In today’s culture, I don’t think it has the emphasis that it used to have. People are having a good time rather than working.”

The overall culture has changed, he noted.

“People in a way have gotten used to letting the machines work for them,” Witt said.

Witt, who held off retiring because he wanted to make sure he was financially stable, plans to spend more time with family and catch up with “the years of around-the-house jobs that have accumulated.”

A resident of Walters, Witt and his wife, Stephanie, are the parents of Jennifer Cothern of Walters and Paul Witt from the San Francisco area. The couple also has three grandchildren.