Four Fond Farewells

Four Fond Farewells

When Chryslie Cultice first began teaching in Loudoun County it took her 45 minutes to drive from her house in Arlington to Blue Ridge Middle School in Purcellville.

"There was one stoplight at Route 28 and Route 7 and that was it," she said.

That was 1971 and Cultice was working as a middle-school art teacher. Now, 35 years later, Cultice is ending a career that has spanned several schools, two age groups, three positions and countless students.

A guidance counselor at Broad Run High School since the fall of 1989, Cultice said that, while the county has changed, the students themselves have not changed much over the years.

"I think the circumstances have changed," she said. "There are so many options and choices that kids have to make now; the burdens are just so much greater now. But everyone is still always searching for the betterment of themselves."

Cultice is one of four teachers retiring from Broad Run High School this June. She is joined by fellow guidance counselor McLaurin "Mac" Dawson and math teachers Sandra Simpson and Gary Barr.

"Things are going to change a lot," Assistant Principal Christopher O'Rourke said. "We don't want to use the word replace, but we are going to bring in new people and move on as best we can."

With five guidance counselors in the Broad Run guidance department, the loss of two members will have a large impact.

"They are superlative counselors," Guidance Director Debbie Tinsdale said. "We will lose a unique set of gifts and presence that you can't replace."

EACH OF THE four retirees brought a special aspect to their classrooms and their offices that have enhanced the experiences of their students.

Cultice spent two years as Broad Run's guidance director, but gave up the position for the chance to work closely with students.

"I would much rather talk with teenagers than schedule their SATs," she said. "Every student is gifted; it is just finding their niche and avenue to express it."

Tinsdale said Cultice is excellent in her dealings with students.

"She is really adept at working with students both individually and in groups," she said. "Coming to talk to [her] is so calming and relaxing and helpful, I almost wish I could send everyone to her."

Even in his last year, Dawson continued to impact Broad Run. He worked with social sciences teacher David Mininberg on the Student Alternative Focused Environment (SAFE) program, which helped students who might not otherwise graduate complete high school.

"He has had a tremendous impact on at-risk students," Tinsdale said. "It is a real legacy he is leaving behind."

"Even in his final year he is doing something new," O'Rourke said. "He has a very good pulse of what is going on."

Simpson, who spent a majority of her career at Broad Run, teaches some of the schools most difficult math courses, such as precalculus and algebra II. O'Rourke said she is one of the most demanding teachers, requiring an excellence from her students that pays off.

"There is no doubt that students come out her class prepared for higher math classes and other challenges," he said.

Unlike the other three retirees, Barr is only retiring to part-time status after spending 16 years at Broad Run. He is giving up the geometry classes he teaches, but as the only computer-science teacher in the school, he will continue to teach his computer classes in the fall.

"My goal was to retire and see what happened if I went part time," he said. "As long as I like what I am doing I will do it."

O'Rourke said that a computer-science teacher is a difficult position to fill.

"To have someone to continue to do that is great," he said. "[Gary] continues to stay with the times, which is really important."

WHEN COMPUTERS were first becoming a part of high-school classrooms in the early 1980s, no one knew how they were going to be used, Barr said.

"They just gave them to the math teachers," he said. "There have been five program languages since then."

In addition to being a computer-science teacher, Barr had to be a student as well, taking computer classes every year, sometime as many as 15 semester hours a year, in order to learn the latest computer technology.

"As soon as I retire at the end of this year I have to take classes on the changes for next year," he said.

Since he began his career in 1969, Barr has worn many hats in the public school system.

Besides being a math and computer-science teacher, he has directed plays, been a National Honors Society sponsor and coached four different sports. He even spent five years as Broad Run's girls basketball coach.

"What I will miss most is working with a cross-section of kids," he said.

Both Barr and Cultice said the most rewarding part of their jobs has been the connection they can make with their students.

"When kids say 'I feel so much better than when I came into your office,' it just rewards me so much," Cultice said.

"It is an amazing thing seeing the light suddenly come on for a kid who doesn't understand and then finally gets it," Barr said.