As schools throughout Columbia County have a summer exodus of pupils through their doors this week, so, too, will some of those schools soon experience a departure of teachers.
After 25 years at Augusta Preparatory Day School, Lower School Head and former kindergarten teacher Carol A. Jones had planned to retire after this school year. When the school couldn't find a suitable replacement, however, she decided to stay another year.
On Friday, more than 530 pupils, administrators and the Star Student who made her a Star Teacher celebrated Jones for her service with the naming of the Early Education Wing in her honor.
"The foundation of Augusta Prep has been fortified and strengthened because Carol Jones has blessed us with her presence," said headmaster Jack Hall, who added that Jones is the first faculty member to have a structure named in her honor at Prep.
The private school also gave Jones a commemorative chair that it gives all staffers who work at least 25 years.
Griffin Reid, Jones' former Star Student, returned to Prep from Atlanta to attend the ceremony.
"You learn the basics in kindergarten, that's where it all starts," said Reid, an engineering major at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Jones, who didn't want to leave her school without a strong leader, said that wasn't the only reason she returned.
"(It was) the people and the children, the parents, the interest in good quality education this system definitely provides and the individual care and love that this school provides," she said.
When she retires next year, the Evans resident said she wants to travel and to get involved as an advocate for the rights of the elderly.
The Columbia County public school system is losing several teachers and administrators to retirement this year.
Evans High School athletic director Gail Connor is retiring after 30 years in the system and 21 years at the high school.
"We've got a great school system and a terrific student body and that's why I stayed," Connor said.
The coach said she's proud to have started the volleyball and swim teams and the aerobics program.
Connor also said she is proud of the sports teams and her tenure as athletic director.
Like Jones, Connor will be around the school after this year. She said she will stay on to teach two physical education classes and one health class next year.
After four years at Greenbrier Elementary School, Andy Baumgartner, a former national teacher of the year, will retire to work for the Seattle-based Bureau of Education and Research to lead seminars to educate other teachers.
"I will miss the interaction with the children and I will miss the kids," said Baumgartner, a kindergarten teacher.
"I hope to do some subbing and keep attached to the schools," he said.
A teacher for 30 years, who earned national recognition while in Richmond County, Baumgartner said too many teachers go unrecognized for their work.
"Unfortunately, so many teachers that deserve that kind of recognition and gratitude never get it in their careers," he said. "I have a great deal of appreciation for all the wonderful teachers I've had the opportunity to teach with."
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