AVON PARK – Debbe Roberts and Patty Sheehan, adjunct instructors for SFSC’s Adult Education Department, officially retire from the College on Monday, Aug. 2.
Roberts and Sheehan provide instruction in literacy and numeracy skills through SFSC’s Adult Basic Education program. SFSC has partnered with Ridge Area Arc, a local non-profit that provides services to disabled individuals, for over 30 years.
“Debbe is never without a smile on her face and is such a positive, compassionate individual,” said Courtney Green, director of adult education and technical dual enrollment. “What a blessing she has been for the students she has helped over these years and will be greatly missed. Patty has earned her retirement. Because of COVID-19, she had to learn new ways of instruction which included the Zoom virtual classroom.”
Sheehan, originally from Miami, graduated from Spring Hill Jesuit College in Mobile, Ala. with a bachelor’s degree in Education and Psychology in 1974. After graduation, she and her husband traveled the country by van. While on the road, Sheehan’s husband received a phone call from his brother, Kevin Roberts, informing him of a job opening in Sebring, which Sheehan’s husband later accepted. (Roberts currently serves on the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners.) Sheehan, later, met Arc’s director, who offered her a position teaching Adult Basic Education.
After teaching at Arc for several years, Sheehan moved to Ohio, where she earned her master’s degree from Kent State University. She returned to Highlands County and Arc as an adjunct instructor in 2018.
Roberts began teaching at Arc in 1992. Born in Nashville, Tenn. to a family of teachers, her family relocated back to their hometown of Sebring when Roberts was 2 years old. She graduated from SFSC with her Associate in Arts and earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in 1973. Roberts was asked to fill in for Sheehan when she left for Ohio in 1992.
When asked what they liked most about their jobs, Roberts said, “I, immensely, enjoy working with the students. They are just full of personality. A lot of times, you want to take them home with you. I’ve looked forward to going to work at this job for years and years.”
Sheehan added, “Most of what we’ll miss are the students. They know that we love them. We laugh and have fun and learn together. It’s a wonderful way to teach.”
Roberts has a long list of plans for her retirement. With her husband in his position, she’d like to be able to attend county commission meetings. She plans to visit their daughter, Holly, in Jacksonville more often, spend time with her mother and two other daughters who live in Sebring, take gardening classes with the local Master Gardener, and continue working on her watercolor paintings. She does sign language for a praise and worship team at Bible Fellowship Church and the music program. She handwrote a book about an artist that traveled out West in the 1880s to make a new life for herself. Roberts is anxious to type the manuscript.
“I want to spend time with Patty, as well,” she said. “She’s been a friend (and a relative at one time). We love each other and we have so many things in common.”
Sheehan plans to spend more time with her children and grandchildren. “I’m in the process of changing one of my rooms in my house into “Nana’s Playroom and Library,” because I have books on top of books for children. So, I want to spend time reading with my grandchildren.”
Sheehan recently purchased a new bicycle that she enjoys riding. “It’s a cheater’s bike,” she said. “It’s electric. So, when I get tired, I press a button and it takes over for me. Riding to a big park, I don’t last long.”
Sheehan’s sister is a travel agent. “If the world would straighten up, I’d love to go back to Europe. My sister and I always have a great time.”
A special recognition for Roberts’ and Sheehan’s service was held at Ridge Area Arc on Wednesday, July 28.