Four Evergreen Elementary teachers retired in June, taking away a total of 67 years of combined service to the school. Sabra Stratford, Dallas Presley, Gail Mitchell and Richard Gudmunson were honored at a ceremony at the school that was filled with applause, misty eyes, a student-produced musical and congratulatory speeches.

Retiring Evergreen Elementary School teachers Sabra Stratford, Dallas Presley, Gail Mitchell and Richard Gudmunson share a bitter-sweet moment during their retirement party in June. Photo by Hugh McMillan

The four represented 85 years of teaching, 67 of them at Evergreen.

“Thank you for touching our future and for all your amazing years of service to Evergreen Elementary,” said the school’s principal, Jacque Crisman.

Of Gudmunson’s 32 years teaching, the last 22 were at Evergreen. “I had a U.S. history teacher in high school,” he said. “I thought I should have as much fun as he did, so I became a teacher.”

Gudmunson has worn many hats over the years, from reading specialist and classroom teacher to P.E. teacher. He began his time at Evergreen in 1985 as a part-time Title 1 teacher while caring for his own young children. Throughout his 22 years at Evergreen teaching first, second, third and fourth grades, he has inspired many students with his energetic love of learning.

“The best memories are of kids who were successful,” he said.

Seventeen of Stratford’s 18 years of teaching have been at Evergreen. “(The ceremony) was very nice,” she said. “They’ve never done anything like this before.” Her inspiration for teaching: her own children with special needs and wanting all children to feel important and successful. Her best memories include turning the classroom into a rain forest and watching families enjoy school programs.

“Dream big and know you can do whatever you want as long as you work to get there,” was her parting advice.

Presley’s 18 teaching years found her at Evergreen for 14 of them. She taught because she enjoys working with kids. She feels privileged to be the one to see some of their firsts and be a part of that whole discovery process.

Mitchell has been the school’s premier kindergarten teacher since 1993, touching an estimated 280 or more little learners with her warm, loving heart and gentle manner. She said she enjoyed her “own children so much, (she) moved on to other people’s.” She advised, “Always visit a kindergarten class and sit in a small chair to remind yourself just how much you’ve grown and how much you have accomplished since you were 5 years old.”

Many in the large audience at the June celebration were former students, who— some tearfully — hugged the departing savants. At least two of them are college students working to become teachers.

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