I was asked to share my thoughts after so many commented, “I thought you retired?”

I was a former teacher and administrator. I had 35 years in my experience bucket and felt the time was right to retire.

Two years ago, I had no children at home, made plans to visit my family and friends in the U.S. and abroad, and enjoy more leisure time to read and garden.

As you all know, the pandemic changed all the plans I had and forced us all to live a bit differently.

Like many, I found that after cleaning all the closets in the house, I needed to do something.

I walked my dog — a lot! I had no excuses to not find time to exercise and got myself in better shape. I found a part-time job working with student teachers. I found time to visit friends and family on Facebook and enjoyed the great stories about “my students.” All students at the school were “my students.”

The teacher heart still needed to be filled. It was when I asked a lady at church if she needed a tissue when she sneezed that I realized the teacher in me still exists.

Luckily, she found the humor when I told her I was at an elementary school for 25 years.

Recently, I returned to a school as a substitute administrator. I saw many of my students who were in the elementary school and are now in middle and high school.

I had forgotten about early alarms and finding shoes that wear through sand, cold weather and walking 10,000-plus steps a day. I also had to relocate my “recess coat” — there is a stamina that one must build to survive the business of a school day. Bedtimes were much earlier than before, and my body wondered if I could put this on repeat the next day.

After a while, it felt good to no longer get lost in the halls, help someone with a question and help my students once again. It did fill my teacher soul.

I knew my assignment would come to an end as a substitute.

I had come to enjoy the excitement that each day in a school brings. I did enjoy the students’ hugs, smiles and stories. It made me so grateful to have the opportunity to have contributed to their journey in education.

As it turned out, I didn’t travel, my dog is still not a conversationalist and I exercise, but not enthusiastically.

Once again, I appreciate the flexibility retirement brings to my days and the time to read and walk my dog.

What I also found is that I am an educator who still enjoyed working with colleagues who help students in all areas, talking with “my students,” laughing at their stories and above all, I still love their hugs.

(Cathy Baehr is a longtime educator, formerly working for Rio Rancho Public Schools.)