Andy Cutrera, Paul Robertson retire from South Harrison
Administrators have been juggled, new faces have arrived and more baby boomers have retired at South Harrison Community School Corp. The Corydon Democrat featured retiring husband and wife team Juan and Judy Rodriguez in the spring. Andy Cutrera and Paul Robertson join them in retirement.
The students called him Mr. C, and he brought the Turtle Derby to the Rangers for two decades.
Andy Cutrera taught New Middletown fifth graders for about 20 years before moving to sixth graders to round out his 30-year career. He made the switch because he wanted to be challenged by the sixth graders’ burgeoning independence.
Cutrera, 57, grew up in Chicago and landed his first full-time teaching job at Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange. Teaching year-round at a medium security prison wasn’t what he had in mind when he earned his undergraduate degree at Indiana University. But then again, New Middletown probably didn’t enter into the city boy’s daydreams either.
He left the reformatory for a traditional school setting when Supt. Edmund Schneider hired him at South Harrison in 1974.
‘It was a big adjustment for me to come down to New Middletown, because it was truly the country. I felt embraced there. I became part of the family. I think that’s why I stayed there,’ Cutrera said.
Cutrera completed his master’s degree at Indiana University and coached the Rangers’ fifth and sixth grade girls and boys basketball teams. ‘We had lots of fun, and sometimes we won. Sometimes we didn’t.’
In coaching, Cutrera found the same reward he prized in teaching.
‘I enjoyed seeing kids progress and getting to play: seeing the light go on in their heads, so to speak. It gave me great satisfaction as well as helping the student,’ he said.
And there was the Turtle Derby.
Devised by Cutrera and Linda Ray, the Turtle Derby was held annually around the same time as the Kentucky Derby. Students would bet canned food on the turtles as part of a food drive. The kids built the track and found the turtles. After the derby, the turtles’ work was done. There wasn’t a Turtle Preakness or Belmont Stakes, so the one-time racers were returned to the wild.
‘I always felt it was really a success and more towards the end ’cause the kids would really come in and take charge,’ Cutrera said.
The career teacher has no second thoughts about his chosen profession. If he could do it all over again, ‘Absolutely I would. I would because I was able to touch someone’s life. It felt good to me personally in terms of being able to see kids grow.’
Mr. C and his wife, Delores (a chemist who goes by Dee), have also gotten to watch two children of their own grow.
Their son, Charles, 25, works in southern Africa where he heads a small computer company and does missionary work. Daughter Jessica, 28, is an international finance advisor in Japan and travels throughout southeast Asia, working with Americans. Both have been abroad for about three years.
Paul Robertson had an advantage when teaching government at Corydon Central High School. He has held government office since 1978.
Robertson, 58, has retired from his post at CCHS, but he continues to serve as a state representative.
‘I think it has worked really well in my role as an educator and being in government at the same time. I’ve been very fortunate because I get to teach what I practice or practice what I teach. I got my master’s in government. So when I got to serve in the General Assembly, I got to practice what I learned in theory,’ Robertson said.
The Robertson name is synonymous with North Harrison Community School Corp. Robertson’s wife, Jill, taught and coached at North Harrison though Corydon was her alma mater. And all of their children attended school at North Harrison.
‘What was always interesting was when our kids were playing at North Harrison and I was teaching or coaching at Corydon and people would always say, ‘Who are you going to be for?’ And the answer was that I was always backing my kids, but I was for Corydon. When you are teaching at Corydon, you know those students really well because you have them in class. You know those students from North Harrison not quite as well,’ Robertson said.
Robertson also had to curb his bias in the classroom.
‘In many cases the students would ask me, ‘Are you a Democrat or a Republican?’ because I didn’t try to sway them either way,’ he said.
Party affiliation aside, with a 36-year career that spanned Vietnam to 9/11, students were often eager for Robertson to interject his opinion.
‘A lot of things have happened. Youngsters ask me things that are not in the book at all, and I know the answer, and they say, ‘How can you do that?’ and one of the youngsters said, ‘Well, he lived through that.’ That’s what I tell them today, that they will remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about 9/11,’ he said.
Robertson attended college at Vincennes University and Indiana State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree and eventually a master’s degree in government and U.S. history. His teaching career began at North Harrison with fourth graders in 1968. He went to Crawford County and Vincennes before his last stop in Corydon, where he taught U.S. history and then government and economics. He also taught driver’s education at North Harrison, Corydon and sometimes Silver Creek.
Then there was his role as a state legislator. During the long session, he would take a leave of absence from school lasting from January through April. And there was the possibility of a special session pulling him back out of the classroom. Every other year, during the short session, Robertson would be out of the classroom through March 15.
He coached track, cross country and basketball at levels varying from fourth grade to varsity. Running remains one of his favorite hobbies.
Paul and Jill Robertson have four children, all North Harrison graduates. Jennifer, 31, attends graduate school at Durham University in England. Chad, 27, is in his final year of law school at Indiana University-Purdue Unversity at Indianapolis. Heather, 24, is a graduate of the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville and teaches the second grade in Owensboro, Ky. Jessica, 20, is studying physical therapy at Indiana University in Bloomington.