When Maxine Hill Newton finally retired from teaching at 69 she discovered that she missed school too much to really enjoy her retirement. "Miserable," in fact, is the word Newton uses to describe herself then.

So it wasn't long before the former high school teacher was back in the classroom, this time volunteering at Plymouth Elementary, which her two great-grandchildren attend.For her efforts, Newton has been chosen Volunteer of the Year by the officers of the Granite-Salt Lake Retired Educators Association. She will be honored at the group's April 5 meeting.

Newton helps Plymouth's music teacher, Robert Whitmore, teach children how to play the piano. She admits that when she started volunteering two years ago she didn't know how to play the piano any better than the children did, but under Whitmore's instruction she is able to keep a step ahead of the students.

"I'm in Book 3," she says proudly.

She also volunteers her time as adviser to Utah Homemakers, has been a judge at the Utah State Fair, and worked last year as a volunteer for state representative Dan Tuttle.

Newton, who began college at age 45, went on to get a master's degree in education at the University of Utah. Later, she taught home economics at West Lake Junior High School in Granger, and then at Granger High School, where she was department chairman.

An expert seamstress who won 33 first prizes at the state fair in the mid-1960s, Newton supervised the sewing of countless costumes, flags, lab coats and uniforms while teaching at Granger.

She says she misses these projects and she misses the trips she took as chaperone for the Granger drill team, marching band and Future Homemakers of America. But she's finally learning to play the piano.

She says she always wanted to play but never had time for lessons. When her two children were small she worked at home as a dressmaker, often sewing until 3 or 4 in the morning, to earn enough money so they could take lessons.

"Now it's time for me," she says.