Redefining Retirement: Gary Wojton Goes Wild in Retirement

Redefining Retirement
Gary hiking the Grand Canyon

After 34 years as a CPS nationally board certified physical education teacher, Gary Wojton left Peterson Elementary School and was ready for a change. A move to Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2008 could have had all the makings of a sleepy retirement, but Gary wasn’t looking to slow down. He immediately landed a job with the Scottsdale Unified School District as an instructional assistant, tutoring reading and/or math, and then set out on his own path of learning.

A lifelong athlete, Gary developed a passion for hiking, and used the Arizona wilderness as his personal classroom, educating himself about the Sonoran Desert. He put his teaching skills to work and shares his knowledge and experience with elementary students, helping them gain a firsthand understanding of hiking etiquette and safety and an appreciation for Desert wildlife. He takes first graders at Laguna Elementary on desert walks and leads Scout groups of all ages on guided hikes to explore plants and cacti. His Family Walk program has become a popular auction item at annual PTO fund raisers.

Gary leading a group of Girl Scouts on a hike in the Sonoran DesertGary has traveled the McDowell Mountain Trails in Scottsdale, enjoyed trips to Sedona and even hiked the Grand Canyon (from top to bottom and back to the top again, a 17-mile, 9.5 hour journey). “I try to hike every other day during the summer months and 2-3 days a week during the school year,” he explains. “Being a former Physical Education Teacher, I have a firm belief in staying active throughout one’s lifetime. The opportunity to ‘retire’ has given me a chance to develop a new passion and explore an entirely new environment and to share it with a whole new generation of students. I love being outdoors, literally pushing myself to new heights. I have met so many people on the trails and just love it when I can share some of my knowledge of the desert with them.”

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