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Story Last modified at 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

School's end highlights educators' commitments

While driving my daughter home from her final day of fourth grade last week, we slowed behind a bus in front of us as it offloaded a school-age girl at her stop.

We watched as the little girl ran up a side street, swinging her arms in the air like she was at a rock concert. She skipped up the road, and while we couldn't hear what she was saying, we noticed the wide grin and what surely was a little girl celebrating freedom.

That freedom was felt across the Anchorage School District on May 19, as students said their good-byes to teachers, principals and support staff. Every school has its traditions – at Chugiak Elementary, the graduating fifth-graders parade through the halls accompanied by bagpipe music. At Alpenglow Elementary, the graduating sixth-graders there get high-fives from every single student.

Amid hugs, photographs, good-bye gifts to their teachers and even some tears, our kids grow, bit by bit, year by year, marked by the influences of their educators.

Fortunately, we have plenty of good ones in our community who guide our youth. The school year has been marked by great accomplishments – our outstanding teachers have been recognized on the local, state and national level for the work they do.

On the last day of school, I received a note from the principal at Chugiak Elementary. Susan Hindman has been the principal there since the 2003 school year began. She has seen her first class of kindergartners move on to middle school as sixth-graders, growing, and learning, with them, and ushered in a new era of kindergarteners for round two of that cycle last year. Each and every student adds to the texture of that school.

Hindman was touched by this poem, sent to her and the staff by Kathy and Henry Huntington, whose two sons Thomas and Caleb have completed their tenure at Chugiak Elementary and join the ranks of those celebrating "The Last Day."

Happy summer, all you kids out there. You've earned it.

The Last Day

Our children spend a thousand days

In elementary school.

Our children learn a thousand ways—

A lifelong, precious jewel.

Their teachers guide them, coach them, tend them,

As all the while they grow.

And others feed them, lead them, mend them,

Make the building glow.

From kindergarten's wide-eyed start

'Mid ABCs and glue,

To music, science fairs, and art

Their confidence grows true.

And as they leave this school behind,

And move to life's next phase,

To faculty and staff so kind

We give our thanks and praise.

Henry & Kathy Huntington

May 2011

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.