Veteran teachers mark last day
Those final days of the school year are restless and exciting for students. It's no surprise that teachers look forward to the break as well.
For three Morgan County teachers, June 6 wasn't just the last day of school, it was the close of their professional teaching careers.
Daisy Fox, Catherine Waugh and Gary Gaither retired from their classrooms this month after giving Morgan County students a collective 100 years of teaching.
Over the years, the three Morgan County natives have seen both the teaching profession and their county go through tremendous changes. One thing has been steady, though – a fondness for the children that have passed through their classes.
Miss Daisy Fox
Miss Daisy Fox has held her post as kindergarten aide at Pleasant View Elementary for 34 years. She started her teaching career at Berkeley Springs High School, then transferred to Pleasant View, where she had been a student herself. Her own children and grandchildren have come through the halls of Pleasant View.
I wanted to be there for the community, she said, answering the question of why she spent her whole career at Morgan County's easternmost school.
The long connection to the Pleasant View area and its school kept its hold on Fox, who had debated retiring before this year. Her fellow teachers talked her out of the idea a few times, but she decided this was the year to give up her desk.
I just love being with those kids, Fox said.
As kindergarten aide, Fox led arts and crafts activities for the youngsters, helped with alphabet projects, assisted teachers with paperwork and decorated the room with student pictures.
In all, Fox said she has been an aide to at least 15 Kindergarten teachers. The first teacher she assisted was Joan Gill, she said. In those early days, kindergarten was a half-day class, and Pleasant View had eight or nine students in that grade. Now, the youngest students come all day, and the kindergarten class has more than 20 students.
Fox said that's been the case for the last 15 years.
We've been full ever since, she said.
Fox says she doesn't have any big plans for retirement. Pleasant View's students may see her making a guest appearance at the chalkboard now and again, since she'll be available to fill in for absent staff.
When asked what drew her to working with kindergarteners all these years, Fox said, They have such a loving attitude. I just like talking with them.
They're really ready to grow up. Some aren't ready to leave their mothers. You have to work with them tenderly to let them know their mothers will be okay, Fox said.
Cathy Waugh is another Morgan County native that spent her teaching career with the county's school children.
Waugh retired this month from her position as first grade teacher at Widmyer Elementary. She spent 33 and a half years teaching first graders, first at North Berkeley School, then at Widmyer after her old school was turned into the present school board offices.
Waugh grew up in Great Cacapon and graduated from Berkeley Springs High School. When she graduated from West Virginia University in December 1974, her job search took a lucky turn. A teacher at North Berkeley was leaving in January, so Waugh slipped into the position. She led classes in the same room until the school closed in May 2005.
Waugh said she has worked with many of the same teachers and staff for decades, sharing the move to Widmyer and other milestones in her career.
I always liked the people I worked with, she said.
While some teachers teach multiple different grade levels during their careers, Waugh stuck with first graders for 33 years.
First grade is rewarding. At the beginning of the year, they don't know many words. At the end of the years, they're reading fluently, Waugh said.
Teaching students to read is hard, but has a big payoff, said Waugh.
There's a lot of growth in that year, she said.
Over three decades, the methods of reading instruction have changed dramatically. Waugh said there is a lot more assessment of student skills along the line, helping teachers target learning problems before they turn into major obstacles for the children.
So far, Waugh's retirement plans include reading, cross-stitch and cooking. She said she'll substitute teach at Widmyer, and will help her daughter plan her upcoming 2009 wedding.
I'll miss the kids, Waugh said. You really get attached to them.
Berkeley Springs High School teacher Gary Gaither has worn many hats during his 28 years at the school. He said most of those hats have fit pretty well.
Many know Gaither as the man who maintains and grooms the athletic fields at the high school. Others have taken his business, marketing and math courses. He taught this reporter how to type (on a typewriter).
Some have learned to play golf on Gaither's high school team, while others polished their baseball and wrestling skills under his coaching leadership.
Despite his wide resume