“A good teacher is like a candle: it consumes itself to light the way for others.”
– Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Many beloved, veteran teachers and staff are retiring from Albemarle County Public Schools’ (ACPS) western feeder pattern this year—eleven teachers and eight staff, to be exact. After long—many over 30—years of dedicated service helping our children achieve their potential, and with many Golden Apple winners among them, they leave a legacy of inspiration, caring, and commitment to excellence. They will be missed!
Four legendary teachers have retired from Henley Middle School. “The greatest joy in teaching has been to meet students where they are and challenge them to go places they never dreamed it was possible to go,” reflected English teacher Chuck Miller, retiring after 40 years—which included coaching WAHS track and cross country, serving as PTO liaison, and serving on the executive board of the Virginia Association of Teachers of English (VATE). “I also had the honor and privilege to work with amazing colleagues, three of whom also retired this year.” Sixth grade English teacher Jane Webb at 40 years, librarian Susan Guerrant at 38 years, and English teacher Tamara Bowden at 20 years are joining Miller in the “new adventures await” set. “These four teachers are just irreplaceable,” said Elizabeth Thompson Sweatman, chair of the Henley English Dept. “They instilled a love of reading in students and taught them how to harness the beauty and power of language to strengthen their own voices.”
“Ms. Webb’s reputation is iconic,” Sweatman added. “She is revered by students, parents, and teachers alike. Magic happened in her classroom.” Principal Beth Costa concurred. “Ms. Webb allowed students’ inner artist to be released through her Museum of Modern Art project. She was beloved in the community for her warmth, yet relentless pursuit of student excellence. Ms. Bowden also infused art into her classes and helped students make their poetry come alive with water color illustrations.” “They were exquisite,” agreed Sweatman.
“Ms. Guerrant could organize my thoughts better than I could! I would go into her office with a jumbled mess of ideas and leave with a coherent plan.”
Ms. Guerrant taught art and English, but said “being a librarian was my dream job. What could be better than encouraging students to become lifelong readers?”
Crozet Elementary School (CES) is also saying farewell to four longtime colleagues: first grade teachers Barbara Albertson at 34 years and Virginia Sclechta at 30 years, school nurse Debbie Hajek at 20 years, and cafeteria manager Liane Via at 30 years.
“I remember coming here with great hope to make a difference,” said Albertson. “But it was the other way around. My students were the ones that made a difference in me! You will live on in my memory, and I am forever grateful for you and the things we achieved together.”
Principal Gwedette Crummie will miss them all. “Ms. Albertson was the Queen of the Responsive Classroom,” she commented (a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline).
Sclechta also enjoyed learning from her students. “The best part of every day was to see the sparkle in my students’ eyes,” she remembered. “Hugs were always my favorite—even when the whole class hugged me at once and we all toppled over!” Crummie continued, “Ms. Hajek is the best school nurse I have worked with in years. She was truly a nurse to all—our entire school community. And Ms. Via was our Top Chef. Her love and commitment to creating nutritional meals for our students, staff, and family visitors every day will not be forgotten.”
Faye Jones, Brownsville’s school secretary of 39 years, is also turning off her morning alarm clock. “Ms. Jones was the first person you saw when you walked into Brownsville,” commented principal Jason Crutchfield. “Any community member that attended Brownsville will remember her as the friendly voice of our school, almost since its opening. She is a part of this school’s history and will be missed.” Teaching Assistant Catharine Warnick is also retiring from Brownsville after 19 years. “Ms. Warnick was a consummate professional who was committed to supporting our youngest students,” Crutchfield continued. “Her ideas and leadership inspired us all.”
Kindergarten teacher June Benoit and 4th grade teacher Laura Scully will be missed at Meriwether Lewis Elementary after 33 and 38 years of teaching, respectively. Murray Elementary had no retirements in 2020.
Western Albemarle takes the lead with seven retiring teachers and staff. Over her 37 years as administrative secretary, Leslie Brown gained a wealth of institutional knowledge of how things worked and was always available to listen and share this knowledge with students, teachers, and administrators. “She was a problem solver,” said Assistant Principal Tim Driver. “If she couldn’t solve the problem, she would show you where to go for help.” Guidance secretary Debi Davis was the backbone of the Counseling Department. “Ms. Davis cultivated a family atmosphere at the school,” Driver said, “helping both students and teachers to have fun and get to know each other as people. She was the master mind of the chili cook-off, the winter parties, and the Halloween competition between departments.”
Kind and warm-hearted teaching assistant and ISS coordinator Gloria Green is retiring after 19 years. “She met the buses and was the first person we saw in the morning. She always had a kind, cheerful word,” remembered Driver. “If you were having a bad day, Ms. Green could always lift your spirits.” Special Services assistant Linda Goolsby worked one-on-one with disabled students for 30 years and was always there for them, keeping them safe with caring and positive energy. WAHS is also saying farewell to teachers Mark Posovsky, co-founder of the Environmental Sciences Academy and astronomy teacher extraordinaire, after 26 years; outstanding science teacher Carla Tacy, who always based her success on that of her students, after 21 years; and Special Services teacher Denny Barberio after 36 years of teaching at various schools as well as prisons and boys’ homes. Barberio applied his experience making TV shows at Disneyworld and NYC to providing top-notch light and sound management for drama productions and assemblies. “Denny also made sure kids were fed, bringing food from home for his classes and setting up snack tables during rehearsal breaks,” Driver said.
The commitment and longevity of these teachers and staff are inspiring. The theme that emerged in all of their remarks was gratitude toward their students and the joy of “seeing the light bulb go on.” “My students have given me the greatest gift of my career:” declared Tamara Bowden. “Live entertainment, day after day. To the hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years: my heartfelt thanks to you!”
“Teaching is one of the most challenging and most rewarding of professions. If “to teach is to touch lives forever,” these teachers were clearly touched back, as Virginia Slechta affirmed. “It takes a village, and to be part of touching so many lives has been a true honor.” Hearty congratulations, gratitude, and happy trails to all of these fine educators!
Teachers and Staff Retiring from Western Feeder Pattern Schools 2020
- Faye Jones, School Secretary, 39 years
- Catharine Warnick, Teaching Assistant, 19 years
- Barbara Albertson, 1st and 4th grade Teacher, 34 years
- Debbie Hayek, School Nurse, 20 years
- Virginia Slechta, 1st grade Teacher, 34 years, 20 with ACPS
- Liane Via, Cafeteria Manager, 30 years
Meriwether Lewis Elementary School
- June Benoit, Kindergarten Teacher, 33 years, 28 with ACPS
- Laura Sully, 4th grade Teacher, 38 years, 16 with ACPS
Henley Middle School
- Tamara Bowden, English Teacher, 20 years
- Susan Guerrant, English Teacher & Librarian, 38 years
- Chuck Miller, English Teacher, 40 years
- Jane Webb, English Teacher, 43 years, 37 with ACPS
Western Albemarle High School
- Dennis Barberio, Special Services Teacher, 36 years, 18 with ACPS
- Leslie Brown, Admin. Secretary, 37 years
- Debi Davis, Guidance Secretary, 24 years
- Linda Goolsby, Special Services Assistant, 30 years
- Gloria Green, Teaching Assistant, 19 years
- Mark Posovsky, Science Teacher, 26 years
- Carla Tacy, Science Teacher, 21 years