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Retired teachers stay connected

Thanks to Wind Crest’s Patricia Brinkopf

Created date

February 22nd, 2011

Patricia Brinkopf, a retired teacher living at the Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., called Wind Crest, believes in the concept of home in setting down roots and becoming part of a community. Now, two of her homes teaching and Wind Crest are coming together.

Establishing roots

During her first marriage, Brinkopf was wed to a military man, and they traveled all over the world. This gave her the opportunity to teach in amazing places, from Colorado to Naples, Italy. She taught math, english, and special education for 33 years but it wasn t until the last 14 years of her career that she became rooted in a school, in a second marriage, and found herself truly home. Brinkopf married the principal of her school, Jim Brinkopf, aka Mr. B, a somewhat tough principal who started up West Middle School in Cherry Creek and worked there for 30 years. He knew what the kids needed and he handpicked all the teachers and gave them freedom in the classroom to really teach. This made them very loyal to him, Brinkopf says. Because of this, the teachers and administrators were incredibly close. Once the Brinkopfs retired, they started a retired teachers group for the folks at West Middle School, and it s been running strong since 1990. At first, it entailed getting together every month at the popular restaurant The Egg & I. Since then, it has become a tight-knit group, where at least 25 people come to every meeting, though it s not the same people every time. People who live in different states show up at the meetings when they re visiting Colorado. They tell nostalgic stories, pass around photos that were in Mr. B s collection, report on former students, and laugh. There s always a joke teller present, she giggles. As life goes, they ve lost some teachers, including Mr. B, and Brinkopf keeps a fund for those who become ill; she sends flowers and cards to brighten their days and remind them of their connection. She also keeps up with people, including her 4 children, 14 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren through e-mail and Facebook.

Evolution of an era

You won t find schools like ours anymore, she says. Now teachers spend a year or two at a school before transferring or quitting, and that s hardly enough time to establish lasting bonds. Brinkopf s latest project has been bringing people to Wind Crest. In one day, she had lunch with her former vice principal and dinner with a fellow teacher. They all just love it here, the food and the atmosphere. Everyone, even my kids, says it s the best food in town, she smiles. The last few years, the retired teachers group has had their Christmas party at Wind Crest. More than 30 people come, eat great food catered by Wind Crest, and have a wonderful time. I keep telling them all to move in here, Brinkopf says. The retired teachers group is just a part of Brinkopf s life at Wind Crest. Not only does she love the food and her apartment home, but she loves the people as well. They re all so interesting here and have had great careers. The conversations are fascinating. I wouldn t want to go back to anything else.