In the past three months Amherst County Public Schools Superintendent has used the word “unprecedented” in describing the multitude of effects of COVID-19 than he said he cares to remember.
Another one of those instances recently applied to an end-of-school year tradition in which the Amherst County School Board celebrates retiring educators during a meeting that typically features hugs, face-to-face interactions and a reception. Because of restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, the division held its retiree celebration through a prerecorded video presentation during the board’s June 11 meeting with comments from a variety of educators who worked alongside those saying goodbye to their careers.
Arnold said the 25 employees combined are leaving behind more than 600 years of service to Amherst County Public Schools and 800 overall in public education, which he described as irreplaceable.
“The children of Amherst County are better for having their influence in their lives.”
From a distance, the close bonds educators formed with students and colleagues were highlighted in the virtual recognition.
Amherst County High School teacher Brenda Crews was among those honored for a 46-year career in education. “I’m not certain that’s a record, but it’s got to be pretty close,” said Joey Crawford, an assistant principal at the school.
Crawford said she positively affected countless students and colleagues and personally recalled how she influenced him as a student, teacher and administrator. “She’s a guiding light for students and other teachers in this school and we will miss you very much,” Crawford said.
Amelon Elementary School Principal Jay Sales recalled retiring kindergarten teacher Mary Gallagher treating his son, a past student of hers, like her own and pushing him to do the best he could. “She did that for every child every day,” Sales said of her career spanning nearly four decades.
Lisa Crawford, a teacher at Madison Heights and Amelon Elementary schools, was recognized for her making art fun and effective for youth.
“I learned much from yo about what it takes to be a good artist,” said Jeremy Hutchinson, assistant principal at Madison Heights Elementary to Crawford. “The way you allow students to express themselves through art was truly remarkable.”
Monelison Middle School teacher Fernanda Heck was honored for a 41-year teaching career, the bulk at the middle school level.
“She was relentless on the copier but she wanted to make sure her students had access to every possible resource she could get her hands on,” said Lantz Martin, Monelison’s assistant principal.
Pamela Hubbard, choral director at Monelison who spent the majority of her 40-year career at the school, said she never expected to be retiring at such an unusual time.
“I will never forget the road from which I came and I’ll never forget the amazing people that I’ve encountered along the way,” Hubbard said. “I hope the passion I feel for music has enriched the lives of the students in some way because the students of Amherst County have certainly enriched my life in many ways.”
Amherst County High School Principal Derrick Brown honored teacher Sandy Jones for her 41 years of service, describing her as an irreplaceable educator who will be missed. ““You have taught a ton of kids. I mean a ton,” he said.
A tribute also was given to Nancy Kershner, library medical specialist at Amelon, in the library school officials said she made an inviting place for students and instilled in them a love for reading. Louise Moore, a bus driver for the schools since 1970, was recognized for her many years, her timeliness and serving as a well-respected face for countless students and families.
Lynette Miles, a physical education teacher at Monelison, was described as a permanent fixture at the school who gave hundreds of teenage girls fulfilling experiences across four sports during her 42-year career.
Patty Shrader, secretary to the superintendent who worked for the division since 1978, was recognized by Superintendent Rob Arnold for serving as a calming influence when he arrived amid much staff turnover in 2018.
“She provided that experience and knowledge of all things Amherst. She will be missed for providing a festive atmosphere with her many creative talents,” Arnold said.
Shrader described co-workers as like family. “In 1978 I never dreamed when I accepted a position in Amherst County Public Schools it would become such a huge part of my life,” she said.
Cynthia White, school secretary who worked 45 years at Amherst Middle School, said she had the pleasure of building many long-lasting relationships.
“My time at Amherst Middle School has been an unforgettable one filled with many great memories,” she said.
Nancy Williams, teacher at Temperance Elementary, was recognized for placing self-confidence into her students, making special birthday hats for them along with her hugs, gingerbread houses and floral arrangements for special events.
Other retiring educators include Jacqueline Canada, instructional assistant, Amherst Middle; Mary Chambers, a teacher at the high school with more than 30 years of service to the division; LeAnne Clay, a Monelison teacher with 29 years experience; Mitch Edler, a network manager and computer technician for the schools; Martha Greenwood, an instructional assistant at the high school; Melanie Hyman, a Central Elementary teacher who spent 21 years in the division; Teresa Mattox, a Central Elementary teacher with a three-year stint at the school; Nanci McLellan, child nutrition program assistant at Amherst Middle; Allen Rose, a custodian at Madison Heights Elementary; Dianne Sandidge, instructional assistant at the high school; Cleveland Tinsley, a custodian at the high school and Linda Wilcher, administrative secretary to instruction who worked for 24 years for the division.
School board member John Grieser said some of the retirees touched his life as a student who grew up in the school system.
“Each position matters and I appreciate your service,” board member Amanda Wright said.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.