Coming home from a weekend getaway in Bethany Beach, Del., Pat Zissios, principal at Crestwood Elementary was listening to her husband long for a life of leisure. He retired a few years earlier, but Zissios had to get back by Monday morning, to greet the students at Crestwood, the way she had for six years.
But this time, Zissios listened to her husband's reasoning and decided to call it quits as well.
Come June 30, 2004, Zissios shuts the doors at Crestwood Elementary School for the last time.
"I will be on the beach at Bethany," said Zissios. "I've had a great career," she told a cafeteria full of teachers and volunteers Monday, April 19, during the school's annual volunteer appreciation day.
Zissios knew it was time to retire, or she might never want to again.
"I have to go now," she said. "I have to do it this way, otherwise I'll be going on and on."
A hush came over the cafeteria as everyone let the news sink in, trying to grasp what it would be like at Crestwood without Zissios. No more kissing frogs after a reading challenge with the students. No more Cat in the Hat outfits on Dr. Suess' birthday. No more thrusting herself into the Springfield neighborhood to benefit everyone.
"I'm like shocked, my mouth dropped," said Sandra Laing, third grade teacher at Crestwood. "She's irreplaceable."
Carolanne Craig, first grade special education teacher, felt the same way.
"Whoever it is, they'll have big shoes to fill," Craig said.
ROGER ENDERT is a volunteer teacher for the English as a second language classes Zissios established in the trailers behind the school. He came up to Zissios with tears welling in his eyes.
"Thanks soldier," he said as he shook her hand.
"She is a leader and knows something about being in an immigrant situation," Endert said.
Katerina Zissios, Pat's daughter, was on hand for the announcement. Katerina Zissios works for the Fairfax County Public School system in the accounting department.
"She's had a wonderful career and gives 110 percent," Katerina Zissios said. "She always put others first. It's time to put herself first."
Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) appreciated the way Zissios utilized the school building at Crestwood to improve the community after classes were over.
"Pat is the only person whose ever delivered on bringing new Americans truly to the table to be actively engaged in the community," Kauffman said. "Pat took great risks for the right reasons. That is going to be a huge hole to fill."
Paul Regnier, Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson, said the hiring procedure for a new principal has not begun yet. According to Zissios, the new principal will be at the school for the last two weeks of June to train with Zissios.