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Washburn trying new 'classroom'
Retired school principal enjoys new role interpreting Civil War history for area visitors

  Lee Woolf's archive
  E-mail Lee Woolf
Date published: 8/25/2004


RANDY WASHBURN retired last spring after a 34-year career in education-- most of it as an elementary school principal in Stafford County.

At age 59, he said it was simply time to try something else.

So, he found a summer job.

Now, while he no longer has to deal with administrative duties, discipline and parent conferences, he's still using his education skills--even though his "students" are mostly taller and older.

Washburn is working as a seasonal employee at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

His duties include working at the information desk at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitors Center in Spotsylvania County and at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine in Caroline County. He also has led walking tours at both of those sites, and at the Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter in Spotsylvania.

Washburn said there are some similarities between his former students and the tourists he now greets at the historic sites.

"In some cases, the visitors have an eagerness to learnthe same inquisitiveness as students," he said. "And some of the same teaching techniques work--like making things visual, as well as verbal."

Washburn spent the last 24 years serving as principal at Ferry Farm, Grafton and Rocky Run elementary schools. Before that, he was a physical-education teacher in New York state and Maryland before coming to Stafford, where he also taught P.E. and spent four years as an assistant principal.

Washburn is a native of Pennsylvania and said he remembers as a child visiting such historic sites as Valley Forge and Gettysburg.

"I also liked to read biographies and American history when I was young," he said. "I thought about several different directions to go after I retired. But when the Park Service opportunity came up, that became No. 1."

Washburn received training from the Park Service staff and did a lot of reading and studying on his own. He began working weekends in May and June, and then his role expanded to five days a week during the summer.

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