After graduating from Arkansas State University, Welch began her career in teaching in 1976 where she taught for one year in Bay, Ark. In Bay, she also earned a master's degree while teaching full-time.
The following year, she came to Salem and taught until 1980. She then took a five-year break from Salem, teaching at Highland, but returned to the district in 1985 where she spent the next 22 years.
Teaching for nearly three decades, Welch has seen a lot of changes in teaching and the Salem School itself.
"The first year I taught school in Bay, I made $4,896 that whole year. That is how times have changed," Welch said. "I started out here where they served lunches in an underground basement and you had to walk a half a mile in the rain to get there."
With so many years teaching area children, Welch said one memory stands out in her mind.
"I had a student named John. I dreaded him like the plague," Welch said. "But he made my year. I strived to make him shine because he had never shined before. He did shine and he loved me; he had never loved anything before, ever. I see him now and he still just beams when he sees me. It was me that changed as much as he. John just made my year."
Welch is retiring from teaching in Arkansas where she will receive an income from the Arkansas State Teacher Retirement Association, but said she plans to teach for five more years in Bakersfield, Mo., where she will then earn two full retirement pensions. "I will then be vested in Missouri and I will draw full Missouri retirement," Welch said.
Welch said she has also been a funeral director at Cox-Blevins Funeral Home in Salem for the past 12 years. "I love it. I almost bought the funeral home but there would be no retirement," she said.
Although Welch has chosen to take the opportunity, the decision was not an easy one to make. "Life isn't all about money," she said. Working with the Salem School District the past 22 years has created a lot of heart strings, she said.
"I am teaching with people I taught. This is my family; we have been through divorces, births and babies, kids getting married, kids dying, we have been through all that together. That is what I am going to miss. My closeness to my family, my school family," Welch said. "I have cried literally for weeks about this."
For the past 21 years, Welch has taught next door to Annette Henley also a first grade teacher. Henley said she would miss Welch tremendously. "She is the epitome of a first grade teacher," Henley said. "There is no child who has ever left her classroom that can say they were never loved, no matter how hard their life, because Mrs. Welch loved them."
Fellow first grade teacher Andrea Walling has been teaching for two years and said Welch has taught her a lot about being an educator. "Probably more then I learned in college," Walling said. "She is like my second mother." Walling said she would miss laughing with Welch more than anything.