BRIGHTON — While students are ecstatic for the school year to be ending, a number of teachers and staff in School District 27J are saying goodbye to classrooms filled with memories.
On the last day of school Thursday, North Elementary Teacher Grace Whitmer was busy working on end of the year activities with her students. The second grade teacher has 32 years of teaching experience, has taught the past nine years at 27J and has been at North Elementary School for the last six years.
Whitmer says the there’s a lot of warmth at the school and that it’s like a big family. While teaching in the district, she has been active in the Brighton Education Association and has received an achievement award from the Hispanic Advisory Council for second language learners.
Although she has mixed feelings about retirement, Whitmer said she is ready for it.
“I’m going to miss a lot of aspects of teaching but at the same time I’m kind of looking forward to this new chapter in my life – being a little more lazy and just doing what I want,” she said.
During her retirement, she plans to travel a lot with her husband Lyle and has plans to take a train from the East Coast of Canada to the West Coast of Canada. She also plans to travel to Naples, Italy and to spend time with her parents in Hotchkiss as they’re starting to need more attention.
The last days of school have been bittersweet for South Elementary School Teacher Debbie DeBord. Since she started teaching at the school 27 years ago, DeBord said the district has grown a lot but that she’s always worked with great students, parents and volunteers.
“I am excited about retiring but it’s going to be hard as far as missing the people,” she said.
DeBord said she moved to Brighton with her husband Dave when he accepted the job as pastor of Chapel Hill Church of the Nazarene. She said they’ve lived I the community and watched their kids grow up here and that the people in the community are enjoyable.
In 1998, DeBord’s students were among one million children nationwide to get their names sent to Mars on the Mars Polar Lander. She was also voted best teacher in the Standard Blade’s Best of Brighton in 2009 and 2011.
DeBord said she has a new grandbaby she plans to spend time with and that she will also be visiting her children in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Second Creek Elementary School night custodian Wally Carfield was hired by the school district five years ago after being layed off from Samsonite. He started as night custodian at the administrative building but transferred to Second Creek when cuts were made. He’s enjoyed his time working for the district but is happy to be retiring.
“I’ll miss the school and the kids and the teachers and everything because I stand at the door, hold the door open every night at 3:30 to let all the kids go by and the kids do a lot of things that you remember them by,” he said, adding that it’s been fun seeing the kids grow up.
Among his favorite memories working for the district has been seeing his son Brian Carfield, who volunteers with the district, and his grandkids who have both attended Second Creek Elementary School.
Now that he’s retired, Carfield wants to “play.” He has a friend who is interested in horses and carts and he’s currently working on a barn for one of the ponies.
Whitmer, DeBord and Carfield are among of 16 27J employees who are retiring from the district this year. Superintendent Chris Fiedler believes the 211 combined years of service to the district speaks volumes when discussing this year’s group of retirees.
“The departure of these talented individuals leaves an immense void of experience in our school district,” he said. “I also think of another, perhaps unknown, statistic — the countless number of young men and women who have been molded and shaped by these individuals and their commitment and dedication to public education. I think the depth and variety of this year’s group — from teachers to special educators to technology experts to custodians — is also a testimony to how each and every one of our employees plays such an integral role in our success. They will be missed and I wish them all the best in retirement.”