For 11 McDuffie County educators, Wednesday, May 19, was just as busy as any other final day of school. But for this group, the last day with students was a little different this year. Those set for retirement knew it would be the last time they waved goodbye to the students of McDuffie County.
"The feelings probably run the full range of emotions from relief that the work is done, the deadlines have been met," said Janice Newsome, Dearing Elementary fifth grade teacher. "There's excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead, the opportunities that retiring gives me the chance to pursue by giving me the gift of time."
Amidst the frantic rush of awards ceremonies and farewell wishes, the everyday tasks took on renewed meaning to those leaving the profession.
"It was such a busy day, and (the students) were so excited to get out that I didn't really have time enough to stop and reflect, 'Well this is the last time I'll do this,'" Thomson High Principal Bill Reese said.
"A couple of times either teachers or people there in the office would say 'Well, you don't have to worry about ringing the bell anymore; this is the last time you'll have to do announcements,' or something like that," Mr. Reese said.
McDuffie County Superintendent of Schools Ed Grisham was so busy visiting each school that he didn't spend more than 30 minutes in his office all day.
"Well, it was extremely busy," Dr. Grisham said. "Almost my entire day was spent running from one program to another."
Dr. Grisham attended awards ceremonies at Norris and Dearing Elementary Schools as well as the eighth grade graduation at Thomson Middle. And for the last time he watched students exit the building at several of the other schools.
"I felt inwardly a little emotional because you realize after 35 years that these are a few of the things that you probably won't do anymore," Dr. Grisham said. "Of course working with students is what it's really all about. So that was what I wanted to do my last day."
After serving as superintendent for 13 years, Dr. Grisham also spent time reflecting on the changes that have taken place in the school system since his arrival. Buildings have been constructed and programs expanded; 13 years of memories came like a flood on his final day with students.
"It did bring on a few emotions, and I had to kind of grab myself every now and then and say 'Well you know this is just one phase and moving to another one," Dr. Grisham said.
After spending their careers with students, the other retiring educators were also excited about what was to come. But they wouldn't forget the reason they became educators to begin with.
"There's also gratitude for the opportunity to have shared in the lives of these kids," Mrs. Newsome said. "Wednesday was especially heartwarming to me because even though it was the kids' day...they took the time to write me letters and to make it a special day for me too."
McDuffie County's retiring educators are Jimmy Ansley, Bobby Caldwell and Mr. Reese from Thomson High; Regina Bell, Francis Darden and Anne Easler from Norris Elementary; Lynda Fluker from Maxwell Elementary; Mrs. Newsome and Wilma Thomas from Dearing Elementary; Dr. Grisham, superintendent and Gwen Rountree, assistant superintendent.