Close to 90 educators will be retiring at the end of the school year, up from last year’s 60.
The list includes two administrators — Cherokee High School principal Pam Biser and Carmel Elementary School principal Dr. Sharron Hunt — Assistant Superintendent of School Operations Randy Martin and a slew of support personnel. However, the majority of retirees are the teachers who’ve spent their careers helping brighten the minds of children.
Teaching 'outstanding' students
David Harrison has a history of music in his family. While growing up, church music was a heavy influence on him, his parents and grandparents.
But when Harrison entered middle and high school, his band director, Norman Padgett, influenced him to become a band director.
"He was larger than life." He said.
Harrison, the band director at Sequoyah High School, will retire after 32 years in education.
Harrison, who has had three cancer surgeries in the past five years, said he wants to focus more on his health.
"I think it's just time to slow the pace down and take care of my health," he said.
Throughout his career, Harrison said he's enjoyed watching his students grow from freshmen to "outstanding young men and women" in their senior year.
Harrison, another original Sequoyah faculty member, started his career at Banks County High School as a band director. He then spent six years at Lumpkin County High School as its band director. He took over as Cherokee High School's band director and served in that capacity for four years.
When he started at Cherokee, the school had 50 band members. Before he left, the band grew to 125 members.
Harrison received a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Georgia. He obtained a master's in music education from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago and a specialist degree in teacher leadership in North Georgia College and State University.
Harrison, 54, lives in Salacoa Valley with wife, Dr. Susan Padgett-Harrison, the school district's director of assessment. They have three children and attend Heritage Baptist Fellowship Church, where Harrison is the minister of music.
While his primary focus is to teach his students to properly play their instruments, Harrison said he also tries to teach his students the importance of learning to be responsible for their actions while becoming "outstanding men and women."
"I would rather have people tell me how well-behaved my group is rather than how good they are musically," he said.
Born to be a teacher
Claire Banton had been teaching since she was 4.
Ms. Banton, an early intervention program math and reading teacher for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students, began her career when she helped her Sunday school teacher at St. John United Methodist Church in Columbus.
"I was born to be a teacher," she said.
Now in her 30th year of education, Ms. Banton is planning to retire and focus her efforts on teaching in another area.
Ms. Banton, who received her personal fitness certification in 2008, is planning to use her knowledge to help others get in shape.
Ms. Banton said she will miss the smiles and faces of her students when she leaves.
"That's why I've gotten up at 5 o'clock every morning for 30 years," she said. "That's what I'm going to miss the most."
Ms. Banton began teaching in Clayton County and was in the district for 10 years. She then moved to Canton Elementary and spent 11 years there. She's been teaching at Macedonia Elementary for the past nine years.
Ms Banton received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Georgia State University. She obtained a master's degree in early childhood education with a minor in language development from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She received a specialist degree in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University.
Ms. Banton, 55, lives in Bradshaw Farms and has a daughter and son-in-law, Matthew and Emily Halstead, and a grandson named Aiden. She said her brother, George Mitchell, and her mother, Beatrice Mitchell, have "been my cheerleaders and supporters all these years."
Ms. Banton said she hopes she's inspired her students to continue to learn and to become teachers.
For the younger teachers, Ms. Banton said she encouraged them to stick with their profession, no matter how tough times get.
"It's all about the kids, and no matter what else is going on with politics and the economy, it has to be about the children," she said.
Moving outside the box
Ed Palombo always enjoyed theater, but never thought about teaching the craft to public school children until the opportunity became available.
But since he's become a drama teacher, Palombo has had no regrets.
"It's so rewarding to see them blossom on stage," he said of his students. "It's so gratifying, enriching and rewarding."
And after spending more than two decades of seeing his students blossom, Palombo is hanging up his hat as the drama teacher at Woodstock High School.
Palombo, president of the Cherokee Theatre Company, is planning to focus his efforts in that organization. The change of pace will be slower, but Palombo is looking forward to the new opportunity.
Palombo has been involved in community and professional theater throughout the majority of his adult life.
Before coming to Woodstock High, Palombo was at Duluth Middle School for four years and at Booth Middle School for 11 years.
He received a bachelor's degree in English and theater from Berry College. He obtained a master's degree in theater and speech from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
Palombo, 59, lives in Woodstock with his wife, Becky, and they have two adult sons, a grandson, Hunter, and one grandchild on the way. The Palomboes attend St. Michael's The Archangel Catholic Church in Woodstock.
As a drama teacher, Palombo said it's important that other drama teachers "move outside the box" and allow their students "play their role" as teenagers.
"It's not about what I envision, but what they achieve," he said. "It's amazing what they can accomplish. They have spunk and energy that we can never try to replicate."
Dr. Janice Fuller
Dr. Janice Fuller has always been passionate about her students and math.
She's been so passionate about making sure her students learn the subject that she's given her phone number out to her students if they get stumped on a problem while at home.
But, after 37 years of teaching, students will no longer be able to call Dr. Fuller for help, as she's retiring at the end of the school year.
Dr. Fuller, a Freedom Middle School math teacher, has always wanted to be a teacher.
"It's been a fantastic career," she said.
Giving her students her phone number, she said, did not result in her receiving crank calls or her students abusing her number.
"It seemed to make a world of difference with their efforts in their homework," she said, adding parents would call and ask her to refresh their memory.
Dr. Fuller has been at Freedom Middle School since it opened in 2005. Before Freedom, she taught at Teasley Middle School for 18 years, at Clayton Elementary School for six years and in the Marietta City Schools district for a few years.
She obtained a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Georgia. She received a master's degree and specialist in middle grades education in math and science from Brenau University.
She obtained her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Argosy University in Sarasota, Fla.
Dr. Fuller, 60, and her husband, Ben. live in the Clayton community and have a daughter and son-in-law, a son and a granddaughter.
Dr. Fuller said she hopes her students learn that with hard work and effort, they can succeed at anything.
Dr. Fuller also had some advice for teachers.
"There will be tough days," she said. "Always keep a smile on your face."
Pam Mullins was born into a family that cherished music. At the tender age of six, she started music lessons and when she entered junior high school, she fell in love with band.
"That part of music absolutely hooked me," she said. "I couldn't get enough of it. I wanted to share it with others."
That's exactly what Mrs. Mullins has done throughout her career, but at the end of the school year, Mrs. Mullins will retire as the band director at Cherokee High School to "give her family more attention."
Mrs. Mullins said she's enjoyed many aspects of her career, from taking trips with students to places such as Boston, New York and Chicago, to seeing watching the students shine on the football field during marching season.
Mrs. Mullins has been at Cherokee High School for eight years. Before Cherokee, she was at Teasley Middle School for 10 years. While at Teasley, she was able to convince then-principal Randy Martin to allow the middle school band students to take trips.
"He was skeptical, but had faith in me and allowed me to do that," she said.
Before Teasley, Mrs. Mullins volunteered for three years as the music teacher at Woodstock Elementary and spent eight years as the minister of music at Noonday Baptist Church in East Cobb.
Mrs. Mullins received a bachelor's degree in music education from Georgia State University. Mrs. Mullins, 57, lives in the Clayton Community with her husband, Paul, a retired chief engineer with the state Department of Transportation.
The Mullins have two daughters and three grandchildren. Both daughters, she said, came through her band programs at both Teasley and Cherokee.
As a band director, Mrs. Mullins said she hoped her students understood they were part of something successful.
Being part of the band, she said, can give students the opportunity to form great memories that will last a lifetime.
"I want them to have a wonderful time while learning," she said.
Teaching has been in the blood of Pasty Jordan. Mrs. Jordan, a fourth-grade teacher at Clayton Elementary School, said teaching has been a passion of her since she was a child.
"It's always been something that's been in my heart since I was a child," she said. "I guess I had a calling for it."
And after more than three decades in the profession, Mrs. Jordan is retiring from Clayton Elementary. Ms. Jordan said she would like to spend more time with her family, tend to her garden and give someone "much younger" the opportunity to teach who is in need of a job.
Throughout the years, Mrs. Jordan has enjoyed looking back through her scrapbook and reading notes from former students, parents and student teachers.
"I look back and know that I made a difference in the lives of children and prospective educators," she said.
Mrs. Jordan's teaching career started in 1975 when she was a special education paraprofessional at Tate Elementary School in Pickens County. She worked in the Pickens County school district's payroll department and eventually left the education field.
"I couldn't stand it," she said of being away from the classroom.
In 1992 at the age of 36, Mrs. Jordan began driving school buses to pay for college tuition. She earned an associate degree from Reinhardt College in science.
She got a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Brenau University in Norcross. She continued at Brenau to receive a master's degree in elementary education. She received a specialist certificate in curriculum and instruction and leadership supervision from Lincoln Memorial University.
Ms. Jordan, 54, lives in Ball Ground with her husband, Jug Jordan. The Jordans attend Mica Baptist Church.
As she prepares to leave the profession, Ms. Jordan said she had a piece of advice for those starting out as educators.
"Always keep your students at heart and work to meet the needs of each individual one," she said.
Julie Caponigro never wanted to be a teacher. After receiving a bachelor's degree in art, Mrs. Caponigro's mother asked her what she had planned to do with her degree.
Mrs. Caponigro finally started teaching at 33 and she fell in love with the profession.
"I loved it," she said. "I loved the kids."
The Sequoyah High School art teacher is retiring at the end of the year.
Mrs. Caponigro said she wants to start banjo lessons, focus on her artwork and writing, and spend time with her family.
Throughout her career, Mrs. Caponigro has taken delight in seeing her students pursue art careers of their own, she said. She also said she's enjoyed seeing students who doubt their artistic capabilities, turn out to be great artists.
"Those are your success stories," she said.
Mrs. Caponigro is one of the original faculty members of Sequoyah High School when it opened in 1989. Before coming to Sequoyah, she was at Dean Rusk Middle School for five years and at E.T. Booth for three years.
She received a bachelor's degree from Ball State University and a master's degree in health from the University of Alabama. She received a specialist in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University.
Mrs. Caponigro, 59, lives with her husband, George, a retired Sequoyah history teacher in the Sixes community. The Caponigroes have two daughters and five granddaughters.
For the students who've come through her doors to explore their creative side, Mrs. Caponigro said she hoped the students know that "being creative taps into a different part of your brain."
She gets her joy from seeing the shy freshman students who thrive in her classroom.
"This becomes their home for four years," she said.
Going into education seemed like a "practical" career for Penny Benton.
It was a way for Mrs. Benton to make a difference in children's lives and to spend time with her family.
And for the past 30 years, Mrs. Benton has done just that.
But, at the end of the school year, Mrs. Benton will complete her teaching career to spend more time with her family.
Mrs. Benton, a Holly Springs Elementary School sixth-grade teacher, said her husband Marty is taking a new job in California and they are making plans to move out west. They are also planning to tour Europe this summer and "planning to play a lot of tennis."
Throughout her career, Mrs. Benton has enjoyed teaching students and giving them kindness and respect, something she said can be beneficial to both teachers an students.
"If you can respect them and give them care and kindness, you will probably get it back," she said.
Mrs. Benton has enjoyed serving on the state Professional Standards Commission for the past three years. The position, she said, has helped her learn more about her profession.
She's also enjoyed learning to teach with new forms of technology through the school district's Teach 21 program, an initiative in which teachers use technology in the classroom in turn for credit.
Mrs. Benton has taught in North Carolina, South Carolina and various Christian schools. She was at Dean Rusk Elementary for 14 years before coming to Holly Springs four years ago.
She received a bachelor's degree in kindergarten through eighth-grade education from Bob Jones University. She obtained a master's degree and specialist degree in middle school math and science education from Brenau University.
Mrs. Benton, 61 and her husband live in Bradshaw Farms and have three sons (one of whom is deceased), three granddaughters and one grandson. They attend First Baptist Church of Woodstock.
Mrs. Benton said now that people are aware of her retirement, she's gotten positive remarks from parents.
"A lot of people have come up and say how much they wish I were teaching their next child," she said.