An era ended Tuesday as Suzanne Stapleton and Rebecca Skinner left their classroom at Appletree II on Furys Ferry at Mullikin Road in Evans.
For nearly 20 years, the duo, also known as Miss Suzanne and Miss Becky, taught the pre-kindergarten pupils who attended Appletree.
“They’ve probably educated between 400 and 500 children during that time,” said Pat Shank, the center’s director.
Stapleton has a teaching degree and taught in Pennsylvania before taking time off to raise her two children. She started at Appletree I teaching the 1-year-olds, then moved from Appletree I when Appletree II opened in October 1994.
Skinner had worked different types of jobs, including working as a school bus driver for Augusta Christian Schools, before she began working at Appletree in March 1995.
When the state of Georgia moved pre-K from a program targeting at-risk children to one that was open to all 4-year-olds in September 1995, Stapleton became the lead teacher and Skinner became the paraprofessional.
“They are like peanut butter and jelly,” said Shank. “They finish each other’s sentences.”
Skinner credited the longevity of their professional relationship with common values.
“We’ve both been married 39 years. Our lives are so parallel,” she said. “We have similar principles, morals and beliefs. We are both Christians, so that helped us be so cohesive.”
Because they’ve been such a team, the two women decided retiring at the same time was the right choice.
“I’d been tossing it back and forth. I turned 62 last June, but I wasn’t ready yet. A lot of things have happened since then, and I’ve got a lot of things to look forward to,” said Stapleton.
Since they made their decision several months ago, the final school year was bittersweet for Shank, Skinner and Stapleton. Shank tried not to dwell on it.
“We didn’t talk about it much. There were so many lasts,” said Shank. “I would have spent the whole year crying.”
While the duo is looking forward to traveling and spending time with family, they are glad for the time they’ve had together and for the opportunity to invest in the lives of children.
“I’ve learned so much more from the children than I could ever teach them,” said Stapleton. “I get to see life through their eyes. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”
And they still want to keep in close contact with each other.
“We will call, visit and meet for coffee,” said Stapleton.
A retirement drop-in party for the duo will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at 1350 Waterstone Drive in River Chase subdivision in Evans.