Lois Coogan "stands in awe" of the kindergartners and first-graders she has been teaching in Weston since 1988.
"They develop into a community that adults would envy. They are a model for the way we could all be," said Coogan, who will retire from Hurlbutt Elementary School this year. She began her teaching career more than 50 years ago.
She said the students don't hold grudges, and they love to learn. She has been entertained over the years with comments such as, "Oh, you got a new haircut? I don't like it," and questions such as, "Were you born before Jesus?"
"There are no walls between them and the world. They see it they say it. If they're hurt, they'll say it. How many adults do that?" said Coogan. "It's easy to be with kids they are who they are."
Coogan said it has been "astonishing" to watch the children become literate in one year and to watch their behavioral changes from being aggressive and impulsive to raising their hands and saying they're sorry.
On Monday, the students released butterflies into the wild that they had watched since they were caterpillars. "Two flew away. This guy just wasn't ready," said Coogan, pointing to the butterfly still in the net. "I said to the children, 'You know when you're not ready to do something,' and after that they got all new leaves and kept telling the butterfly, 'When you're ready, you can go.'"
Coogan remembers students from her first class "they're just a little bigger now," she said. Back then, her classroom had only tables, a piano and a sandbox.
She said she'll miss the children. "Little kids basically fall in love with their teachers," said Coogan. In her retirement, she plans to spend time with her grandchildren, play the piano, garden and read "all of the things I don't have time for now."
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