My final week of teaching was filled with goodness. It was sweet to have more relaxed afternoons after busy morning program practices. Diligent work by students (and their teachers) throughout the school year meant time for fun!
Students assembled end-of-the year memory books and collected autographs from one another. Yearbooks arrived on time. There was a pizza party. There were cupcakes to celebrate those important summer birthdays.
Thursday night brought our 25th end-of-year program. Kindergarteners graduated, grade school musicians performed, and awards were presented to the Learning Center students.
While I have not been involved in all 25 programs, I have organized and directed many. I have sat in the audience for many more, often wrangling my own infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
This year, I carried the title of piano accompanist due to my ability to play Apples and Bananas, The Piggy Song, and Round the Clock the Hours Go (Twinkle, Twinkle) with appropriate chords while the kindergarteners sang along.
I also held the title of Learning Center teacher for the final time. It was a delight to listen to my students make music with Mrs. Buchanan and then to present their awards. Looking out over the audience from behind the podium, I saw many former students and parents of students and one former student who was now a kindergarten parent!
My heart filled with a mixture of sadness and joy over endings and unknown new beginnings.
I returned to my seat in the second row only slightly disappointed that I had not asked my former students to stand. As I was letting that go I heard my name being called, and I was summoned to the podium for a special presentation.
My center spotlight survival skills immediately went to work to contain the big feelings that were surfacing. Just take the bunch of flowers and sit back down. What a nice gesture. Smile. Turn around.
It was not that simple. There’s more.
I stood awkwardly by the podium looking around as my friend and fellow teacher, Mrs. Hottinger, came down from her post on stage and reached for a gift basket to give to me. She and Mrs. Buchanan had put it together and asked to present it at the program.
I was speechless.
Words about me began to be spoken by her. That, in itself, was a gift. I heard about my impact and role in their lives as a teacher and friend and how I will be missed. She explained that the basket contained items for me as I continued on my journey. I really hoped it was full of answers and direction.
It was full of chocolate, candles, Keep Calm and Trust God cards, a handmade book, and beautiful vase. Maybe not answers, but certainly clues.
I was presented with a beautiful Psalm 23 plaque, as well, with the meaning of the verse and the images of sheep explained. It was so humbling and special.
Before I could sneak back to my seat, my husband came tp the podium to give his words for me. I listened to a brief recap of my impact and involvement in the formation of Good Shepherd from the early days until now. Five of my children were there to bear witness and to be recognized.
Reminders of how slowly and quickly 24 years can pass washed over me as I locked eyes with those in the audience who had walked the road with me over many seasons and years.
I wish that I could say that I stayed fully present and did not try to cut short my time in the spotlight while attention was being called to me. I wish the words Quit calling attention to yourself were silenced in my head for good, but they linger on.
Kindergartners were waiting in a line to receive their diplomas, and children had worked hard all evening. It was time to honor that. Feeling seen, celebrated, and loved, I asked my former students to stand before I took my final bow.