Parents, families, friends, faculty, and students gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate the retirement of fourth-grade teachers Mary Lowndes and Peggy Darr, and first-grade teacher Eileen McKinney from Sully Elementary School in Sterling.
Lowndes has taught in Loudoun for 35 years with 34 of those at Sully Elementary. Darr taught in Loudoun County for 33 years and at Sully for 31. McKinney has taught in the county for 21 years and spent 20 years in Sully.
The celebration was filled with stories from the honorees teaching careers. The floor was open for everyone to share his or her favorite memories. Everyone including students, parents and faculty shared their fondest memories with the retirees.
"Their love of learning and dedication to education, their consistent care for the students entrusted to them, their concern for the families of the students are simply remarkable," said School Board member Warren Geurin (Sterling).
ERIC STEWART, principal of Smart's Mill Middle School, William Raye, principal of Horizon Elementary, and Clark Bowers, principal of Sully Elementary, made formal remarks. Bowers also hosted the event. Other community members and former faculty were also invited to make remarks.
Each teacher was presented with a hand-painted plate spanning the years they each spent at the school. Faculty members made it clear how much they will miss all the teachers.
"I think their love of children and acceptance of everyone who walks into their classrooms and their positive outlook are their best aspects of their legacy," said Sandie Schneider, kindergarten teacher at Sully Elementary.
Each teacher found their love for children as inspiration for teaching.
Darr's grandmother was the biggest inspiration behind her teaching career. When she was born, her grandmother predicted she would be a teacher and go to the teachers college right across the street from their home.
"I just never thought of anything else," she said. "From day one, that's what I was going to do."
Darr will miss the children she has taught and the many friends she has made over the years.
"I think just the closeness of the family of teachers and staff here is one of my favorite memories," she said. "I can remember doing cooking centers in the classroom all the time with the kids and just doing all those fun things with everybody, and all the little kids that grow up and then come back and become teachers after I've taught some of them. It's just been so amazing."
LOWNDES HAS had too many favorite memories from Sully to pick some favorites. Working with children and parents has always been the best part of her career.
"Every school year you have a tendency to think 'Oh, I don't know about this one,' but you know it always turns out great and I love the children," Lowndes said.
McKinney had a different experience going in to teaching than Lowndes and Darr. She worked at the state department for 10 years and then became a stay-at-home mom. She did not come to teaching until she was 40, but believes it is the best job for a mom because of having the same schedule as her children.
"The children are the reason why I stayed at this job for so long," said McKinney. "They have taught me many things and I have so enjoyed them and I will miss them. I will also miss our Sully family because we are so close."
McKinney's favorite subject to teach is reading because it opens up the world to children.
"My best teaching memories are at the end of the school year because the children come in first grade and some of them are already reading and some of them are not. Some of them are not speaking English, but by the end of the year my students are reading, writing and converse. This is the time of the year where I'm jumping up and down."
The community made it clear how much it will miss the three teachers.
"They have done an excellent job as teachers here at Sully and they have witnessed decades of change in our community," said Geurin.