Redefining Retirement – Dorelle Ackermann – Activism in Retirement

Redefining Retirement

Dorelle Ackermann’s journey with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) began in the hallways of Julian High School in 1975, where she embarked on a career that would span over three decades, before retiring in 2006. As she reflects on her time as a dedicated educator, Dorelle reveals that retirement had always been more than an end to a career.   

“I looked forward to retirement from an early age. I considered summers as a practice for retirement, and I loved my summers free,” said Dorelle. “I looked at retirement as an opportunity to try something new.” 

Even before retiring, Dorelle found solace in nature. Being in nature allows her to peacefully engage all her senses and appreciate all the plants, animals, and physical environment working together. Recognizing the importance of fostering a love for nature in the next generation, Dorelle collaborated with her fellow educators to organize quarterly field trips that allowed students to experience the same joy she felt in nature. Her dedication even caught the attention of Jane Goodall's "Roots and Shoots" organization, which supported her efforts.  

As a former science/biology teacher, Dorelle has always been supportive of environmental organizations and issues, but she was not always as invested as she is now. Dorelle reflects on teaching the Greenhouse Effect to her students and not realizing the seriousness of the topic. “When I finally made the connection, I wanted to make sure I was following science,” she said. Dorelle enrolled in “Climate Change 101” to learn more about climate change and environmental issues. She went on to join The Climate Reality Project where she worked with other changemakers to find climate solutions worldwide.  

For those aspiring to get involved in environmental activism, Dorelle's advice is simple yet powerful: do it. Acknowledging her own imperfections, she emphasized “more will come from many imperfect activists than a few perfect individuals.” 

As Dorelle moves through retirement, her advice for fellow educators is a reminder that retirement is a new chapter filled with possibilities. For Dorelle, retirement is an opportunity to share her knowledge and experiences, to follow her passions, and to continue making a difference.