Retirement timing was unexpected for SMS teacher John Hammond

George Browning

For some, retirement is a process that is planned out and prepared for over a number of years. For Salem Middle School teacher John Hammond that wasn’t the case.
He suffered a stroke on Easter of 2018 and was never able to get back in the class room, forcing his hand into an early retirement.
His retirement brings an end to a teaching career that spanned nearly four decades.
“Retirement is bitter-sweet,” Hammond said. “I miss the contact with the students and the student-athletes. I also miss the contact with the other teachers and things like that.”
Hammond is still listed as a Salem Community School employee for insurance reasons and he is still dealing with the affects of the stroke. Those are things that he will have to live with for the rest of his life.
“I feel pretty good,” Hammond said. “I struggle at times with speaking and articulation. It’s not major. I was diagnosed with a mild case of asphyxia. Going down stairs is difficult, especially if it’s steep, but going up them I’m fine. It’s really weird. My right side has been affected.”
Hammond grew up in Jefferson County and graduated from Madison High School. He went on to Hanover College where he graduated in 1983 and then spent three years in that area as a substitute teacher.
In 1986, he accepted a job to teach social studies and language arts at Salem Middle School. In addition to teaching he coached cross country his first year at the school corporation and then in 1987 Hammond began coaching middle school football. He continued doing that until the end of the 2017 season.  
Hammond saw many football players for Salem grow and develop during his 30-year span. During that time, he said a number of them surprised him by how much they developed in high school, but none more than Doug Little.
“Doug was a tiny kid when he was in seventh and eighth grade and then he blossomed physically in high school,” Hammond said. “He was a hard-nosed kid and ultra competitive. When you combine those traits with the fact that he grew into his body, he became an outstanding athlete for us in various sports.”
Hammond said he chose education because of the influence of his own teachers. Several of those helped to plant the desire in him to work in the field of education.
“It seemed like a decent career path, and it was,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Some teachers who have taught through the changing decades have difficulty adjusting to the changing culture and the changing students, but that wasn’t the case for Hammond. In fact, he said he believes, no matter the decade, middle school students don’t change a whole lot.
“I noticed that students are the same generation after generation,” Hammond said. “Their interests changed and the technology changed, but deep down a human being is a human being. Middle school students are the same generation after generation. They want to be cared about, encouraged and they want to know someone has taken an interest in them. That was true in 1986 and 2018.”
Because of the sudden nature of his retirement, Hammond is still developing a plan during retirement.
He said he hasn’t been able to do a lot thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He has, however, been able to relax and is glad to be able to finally be able to go back to church.
Looking back over his career, Hammond said he doesn’t have any regrets about the career choice he made. There were some politics about the profession he didn’t like, but the teaching part of it was great.
The career didn’t come to an end like Hammond expected or planned, but looking back there are a lot of great memories, he said. That’s why he would encourage young people today to pursue a career in education.
“If a person loves to be around students and has a passion for teaching, I would certainly encourage it as a career path,” Hammond said.  



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