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Longtime Stafford teacher retires, but fond memories remain for her former students
Longtime Stafford County math teacher Helen Schwartz (center) taught Yvonne Nageotte some 34 years ago and her son Lane this year.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 6/15/2012
Students often come back to tell her about their college, military and family lives. Some take her out for lunch or dinner. Recently, a current student referred to her as a second mother. He is from Ghana, and his mother is still in Africa. So, Schwartz went to his soccer games and took pictures, sending them to his mom.
As the mother of two herself, Schwartz knew the student's parents must miss him.
She tries to get out to see many of her students in their athletic events and other extracurricular activities.
And by 7 a.m., her classroom is often filled with students who can't stay after school for extra help because of sports practices.
She gets handwritten letters and emails from former students quite often.
"Every time I thought about retiring, I got another letter," she said.
One former student wrote from Iraq, wanting to let her know that he did use the math she taught him. Her past students seem determined to share their lives with her, even after graduation.
For 14-year-old Lane, that's not hard to understand.
"She teaches to every student," he said. "She spends time with each of us. She's the best teacher I ever had."
Schwartz spends so much time with her students that if you stop by her classroom at Mountain View, you might miss her at first. The petite instructor is more likely to be sitting at a desk, giving one-on-one attention to a pupil than standing in front of the class lecturing. She prefers classic teaching techniques and refused a SmartBoard when they were being installed in Stafford classrooms.
When new teachers ask for advice from a veteran teacher, Schwartz tells them, "Teach the students, not just the subject."
But as standardized testing takes up more and more class time, Schwartz worries that new teachers won't be able to concentrate so much on the students anymore.
And so while she will miss working with kids, Schwartz said it's definitely time to put down the chalk and retire.
Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973