Jim Bishop: She sowed seeds of love in children’s garden of learning

“You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well . . .”
– Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)

VIRGINIA BEACH – What times we live in. I’m sitting at water’s edge of the outdoor pool at our favorite vacation spot – the 37th Street Courtyard by Marriott, which we discovered several years ago when another beachfront motel was full and we needed to find alternate lodging.

We’re glad we did. Not only is this place up at the north end of the Virginia Beach resort strip, but it’s more removed from the main flow of traffic, tourists (that’s other people), noise and other irritants that keep one from having a perfect getaway.

If we weren’t here at this moment, I would be attending my final meeting of the Crisis Management Planning Team (CMPT), yet another in the myriad of acronyms that my work place thrives on. Instead, we are spending three glorious days celebrating Anna’ completion of 29 years of teaching in the public school system, most of that in Rockingham County – at the former Keezletown Elementary School, then Peak View Elementary and winding up in kindergarten at the new Cub Run Elementary next to Montevideo Intermediate.

I ask the good frau how it feels to be finished, to having bid farewell to her last group of children on Thursday, June 9, and knowing she wouldn’t be gearing up for another year by the second week of August.

Without a pause, she pumps her arm skyward and says, “Yes, it feels great! I can slow down a bit and even take some time for myself instead of immediately using my brief time off to clean the house and whatever else fills the few short weeks I have before I start preparing for another year in the trenches.”

Anna is definitely handling this retirement business differently than I am. She is making the transition to this new life stage with the same grace and aplomb as she handled her demanding years of teaching, each year more challenging and stressful than the previous one.

Unbeknownst to Anna, I was invited to attend the final all-school assembly at Cub Run on Anna’s last day.

I walked into the noisy gymnasium packed with children, faculty and some parents and spotted Anna sporting a tiara – would YOU like to be queen for a day? I asked her – a corsage and several necklaces which were gifts from students.

Her principal Kenny Boyers offered glowing words of affirmation on Anna’s “patient and gentle, yet firm” ways of relating to her pupils. The entire assembly gave her a standing ovation, something Anna said she’d never before received, feeling overwhelmed but grateful for this special recognition.

The last day of school was “rough,” Anna said, as she hugged each of her 20 students good-bye and realized that never again will she be so attached to a group of children. Children cried, colleagues cried, and Anna cried. One child held her picture all day and wanted her teacher to move in with her. Leaving Cub Run was, in a word, “bittersweet” for Mrs. Bishop.

The next day, June 10, Anna was feted by her kindergarten team and received more accolades and gifts. One colleague noted, “You have touched and made a difference in the lives of more than 800 young people.”

Meanwhile, back at the beach, the weather forecast called for thunderstorms for the next day, and we prepared ourselves, emotionally and otherwise, with alternate plans. Instead, the sun rose brilliantly over the eastern horizon and thin afternoon clouds kept the temperature near ideal for beach and poolside lounging, swimming and postponed book reading. Somebody up there likes us, I thought repeatedly.

The next morning, we reluctantly check out of our room, and other than heavy, stalled traffic causing some delay in the Richmond area, we arrived home safely, grateful for the brief respite and feeling better equipped for whatever lies ahead.

For me, that includes less than two weeks until joining Anna in being gainfully unemployed, adjusting to a completely different schedule and, I fear, getting underfoot at home. I fully expect my veteran teacher-spouse to apply some of her classroom techniques to keeping her ornery husband in line.

I wonder how long before she puts me in “time out.”

Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. Contact him at bishopj@emu.edu.

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