LITTLETON — After more than 40 years in public education as a teacher and as an administrator, Keith Pfeifer, superintendent of SAU 84 is retiring.
Andover resident Pfeifer came to the Littleton school district as interim superintendent for the 2012-2013 school year and was brought back as superintendent for the current year. He recently notified the Littleton School Board he is stepping down June 30.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pfeifer got into education to honor his colleagues killed in Vietnam.
After graduating from Germantown Academy, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent overseas. While serving as a radio man in northern South Vietnam on July 27, 1967, Pfeifer and his unit came under attack by North Vietnamese Army regulars who were infiltrating the south.
Pfeifer was wounded in that incident and sent back to the U.S. where he convalesced and later was given the opportunity to finish out his military commitment in the National Guard by serving as a recruiter at Oberlin College in Ohio.
Pfeifer earned two bachelor’s degrees, in political science and history, as well as a minor in psychology, at Hiram College.
Pfeifer completed his master’s degree in special education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. He subsequently earned a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Pfeifer took a job as assistant superintendent of SAU 23 in North Haverhill, then he was superintendent of the Mascoma Regional School District, SAU 62. In 1997, he served as superintendent of the Berlin-Boylston Regional School District in Massachusetts but left in 2001 to join the staff of Dover-based Measured Progress, which assesses state educational testing.
After two years at Measured Progress, Pfeifer said he realized “while I learned a lot about assessing, I missed the kids,” which is why in 2003 he accepted a position as director of secondary education for the Timberlane school district. From Timberlane, he served as superintendent of Sanborn Regional, SAU 17, and for four years as interim superintendent in Grantham before coming to Littleton.
Pfeifer, who turned 65 in January, upon the advice of his physician, said he knew that he needed to “slow down,” which is why he announced he would not return for a third year at the helm of Littleton schools.
“I will keep my hand in education some way,” he said during a recent interview, but isn’t sure exactly how.
“I’ve had many good teachers who mentored me and I hope that to some degree I did the same,” said Pfeifer, who added that he’ll miss the town of Littleton — “a beautiful community, a special place that has the best candy store (Chutters on Main Street)” — as well as the teachers and his fellow administrators, but mostly the 770 students in the Littleton public schools.
Pfeifer said he takes comfort in thinking about “each succeeding generation of children moving forward” with their lives, adding that while he may have made “a small dent in their lives,” the students “made a big dent in mine.”
At a time when teaching is “very challenging” and not always held in high esteem, “I proudly wear the mantle ’educator,’” said Pfeifer.