Working Seniors

This is my last article highlighting seniors I work with at Hixson Elementary School. During the next school season, I will introduce you to several more fabulous seniors I have gotten to know.

In my last article, I discussed how the senior population has become more critical to the hiring system than ever. There are advantages to hiring from within the senior citizen pool of workers still wanting to work. Many employers find that their companies can benefit significantly from the loyalty and experience of hiring older workers.

When employers create an age-diverse group of workers, the benefits increase twofold. Problem-solving, information sharing, and new viewpoints of ideas can become a financial win-win for everyone involved. Additional advantages can involve increased work output, a wide range of skills, mentoring, and employee longevity.

In the long run, employers have realized that the compensation their company gains with older workers is worth their investments. Older workers see things from a calculated point of view, not an emotional one. They are more resilient with work challenges. Seniors are good at adaptability within the workplace and are in tune with providing excellent customer service. A big plus for employers is that older workers are more willing to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

What are some of the possible jobs out there for older employees since 2022? Healthcare services jobs occupied by older workers in 2022 rose to 1.5 million. This includes registered nurses and home health aides. In professional and business services, 1,443,000 were employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—more than 1.3 million people over 65 work in wholesale and retail services. There are almost 900,000 seniors in the field of education.

In fields related to animal care, such as animal production and aquaculture, 171,000 seniors were working in 2022, per BLS data. Manufacturing employed 843,000 seniors worked in this industry in 2022, according to the BLS. In 2022, 546,000 seniors worked in transportation and warehousing, as reported by the BLS.

Other jobs that benefit from hiring older workers are finance and Insurance, Real Estate, Hospitality, Leisure, Land-Related Work, Information, and Utilities. Whether part-time or full-time, many of these jobs pay well for seniors; remember, seniors over 70 are not limited to the amount of money they make while collecting Social Security.

So, now let us focus on Wendy Mccullah. I am a former therapist who initially observes people more than talks to them. Once I started talking to her, I realized she was interesting. After working on her story, I saw she was far more interesting than I initially thought. Here is her story.

My story begins on September 30, 1963, when I was born to Robert & Peggy Cullison in Westminster, Maryland, a rural, agricultural community in the north-central part of the state. My parents met as young teens and were high school sweethearts. They married in 1958, and my older brother, Jeff, arrived in 1959.

My dad worked for the C&P Telephone Company, later AT&T, his entire working life, and my mom was a self-employed seamstress and stay-at-home mom. Looking back, I recognize that my childhood was very traditional. Our lives centered around family, church, and community. I was blessed to have a very close and loving extended family, and holidays together are some of my fondest childhood memories. 

Throughout my growing-up years, I was involved in 4-H, where I learned to spread my wings and try new things. I enjoyed school and took advantage of the classes offered in high school that would equip me to work in the secretarial field. But I was a small-town girl looking for more adventure, so after graduation, I joined the Coast Guard.

Before entering boot camp, I worked as a receptionist for a law firm. Then, in March 1982, I headed to Cape May, NJ, for basic training. It was here that I became very aware of my need for God. My parents prayed for me daily, and I felt the power of those prayers. After graduation from boot camp, I decided to surrender my life to Christ and allow Him to lead me.

My career in the Coast Guard was short but very positive and impactful. I trained to become a yeoman, which is an administrative worker, in Petaluma, CA. After that, I was stationed in New Orleans, LA, where I met and married my first husband, who was also in the Coast Guard. Later, we were both transferred to Governor’s Island, NY, where our first daughter, Meghan, was born in 1985.

I was discharged during this time and enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Governor’s Island was such a unique place to live. It was located just off the tip of Manhattan, across from the Statue of Liberty, and accessible only by ferry. The highlight of our time was the 100th-anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

After that, my first husband was transferred to Monterey, CA, where he attended post-graduate school. Monterey was a beautiful place, and our second daughter, Shannon, was born in 1987. Unfortunately, our marriage ended at the end of our time there. I moved back to Maryland with my children to live with my parents.

It was a difficult time when my faith grew, and my reliance upon the Lord became very sweet and genuine. I am so thankful my children were able to experience a childhood much like mine and become rooted and grounded in a stable community and extended family.

I married again in 1992 to Jeff McCullah, an old acquaintance from when I had lived in Maryland. We attended the same church and shared the same values. We also attended the same high school and had a shared history. His daughter, Stefani, was just a year older than my oldest, and we navigated the ups and downs of a stepfamily until they all grew up. 

During this time, I went to school to become a sign language interpreter and held a job with the school system until my student graduated. After that, I began working in education at the same school my family attended.

I worked for 18 years at North Carroll Middle School, first as an assistant in the special needs class, then as a cooperative teaching assistant in regular classrooms. Here, I developed life-long friendships with some of the best people.

I was working there when my children came through middle school, and I helped start and lead a Campus Life after-school program. I was also very involved in my church, singing in the choir, acting in dramas, assisting the youth, and teaching discipleship. 

My children were excellent students, both earning scholarships to Lee University in Cleveland, TN. Jeff’s daughter moved to NYC, where she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. Jeff and I enjoyed our empty nest years, and it was not long before we began enjoying our grown children’s lives as my daughters married and grandchildren started arriving.

But living 600 miles away from grandchildren is difficult. In 2011, the Lord began to work in our hearts to move to TN. Jeff’s parents retired to TN in 1987, and his daughter moved to San Francisco, so with my daughters and their families living in TN and northern GA, we were open to whatever the Lord had in mind.

He clarified things to us at a funeral where the pastor quoted our friend who had passed as having said, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing now.” We began our preparations to move immediately.

In June of 2012, after selling our home ourselves in under two weeks, we packed a 20-foot U-Haul and headed into the unknown, fully confident that God was leading. He opened a door for us to work at Bethel Bible Village in Hixson, TN, as house parents for children in crisis. We lived and worked on campus for two years until God made it clear it was time to move on.

During those two years, we became familiar with the community, connected to a great church, and settled into enjoying our two grandchildren and welcoming another. It was a challenging and humbling experience, but we look back on it with gratitude.

After leaving Bethel, we bought a home near my oldest daughter in Harrison and began looking for jobs. Having worked in the school system in Maryland, I found it natural to explore those possibilities here. I applied and received a call from the principal of Hixson Elementary, Ms. Julie Fine, to interview for an exceptional education assistant position. Dr. Greene was the assistant principal at that time.

I was happy to accept the job and found HES to be just as unique as my school in Maryland—filled with excellent teachers and great people, including sweet children. During my first year at Hixson, I taught social skills in small groups.

I was transferred to Normal Park to work one-on-one with a kindergarten student at Christmas. I missed Hixson and hoped to return, and the following year I was able to do so as a Kindergarten assistant. I learned so much from this position about small children and how they learn.

A few years later, I was allowed to work in the RTI department where I have worked ever since. Each year has held changes with staff and curriculum, but each year has also brought much joy and satisfaction. For the past three years I have taught a structured and systematic reading approach based on the Orton Gillingham method. This has indeed become my passion.

Watching the light bulb go off in a child’s head, seeing him apply what he has learned and become a reader, is a fantastic experience. I want to do this job as long as possible and as long as it brings me joy. Eventually, when my time in the school system ends I want to tutor struggling readers privately.

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband hiking and being outdoors. I also enjoy spending time with my friends, children, and six grandchildren. They range in age from 15 to four, and I have three girls and three boys.

Over the past few years, I have taught myself to paint and enjoy painting rocks as a hobby. I continue to enjoy my life-long joy of reading and writing. I love flowers and try to do some gardening during the summer. I also enjoy cooking.

My parents live in the north and are enjoying their golden years in good health. I am so grateful for the life they gave me and the life the Lord has continued to bless me with. Jeff’s daughter plans to move to the Nashville area as the Lord opens the door, so that will be a blessing and the beginning of a new chapter for all of us!

With age comes lots of surprises, many of which are not necessarily welcomed, but the best things age brings are experience, wisdom, and the ability to look back with gratitude for how God has kept us and helped us with the hard things in life. He has brought us exactly where He needs us to be, and I trust He will continue to do so as we seek to put Him first in all things.

Ms. Mary Shakan (RTI teacher) stated the following about Mrs. McCullah. Wendy is an expert at what she does and readily shares that with others. She is also so patient with her students.

Mrs. Christy Cate (3rd grade teacher) also had something to add. I have known Wendy for many years.  During this time, some things about Wendy have been evident.  She loves the Lord, her family, and the students she works with.  She has worked in education for a long time.  She is very involved in her church.  She also likes to go hiking!

Mrs. Mccullah, I agree with your comment that age comes with many surprises, and many are not always welcome. I look back on my past 65 years with gratitude for how God has kept me and helped me with the hard things in life. I know I am also exactly where He needs me to be. Your wise words are greatly appreciated. Thank you for sharing your story.

15 In-Demand Jobs for Seniors by Rachel Hartman July 11, 2023