After dedicating 31 years to the students and teachers of Forest Edge Elementary School, Lillie DeGree has retired. "Lil" as friends and colleagues know her, worked as an instructional assistant at Forest Edge. DeGree began her work at Forest Edge as a volunteer the year after the school opened. In September of the 1972-73 school year, Degree was placed in a full-time position with the kindergarten classes, where she remained for 14 years. Her main duty was to assist students with tests and homework, "I would do whatever the teachers needed me to do," DeGree said. Her last eight years were spent working exclusively with the special education department. Her official last day was Sept. 30, which marked exactly 31 years, but DeGree said that she will still volunteer her time when needed. "I have seen so many teachers and principals come and go," DeGree said, "I have even seen many of the students I worked with bring their children, I have worked with more than one generation of students."
DeGree is also committed to the community. As a member of the Martin Luther King Church, she helps in the organizing of many community activities. Over the years, she has given to families in need. "Lil has always played a big part in the community. She is a legacy in the Reston community," Pauline McAfee said of her friend and colleague.
A NATIVE OF North Carolina, DeGree has been a resident of Reston for 37 years. She remembers when there was only one school in town. Her husband, Melvin, recently retired from NASA and is now working as a professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md. Her children, Django and Delaina, both attended Forest Edge Elementary School. The oldest, Django now lives in Hamilton with his wife Donna and their six children. "I have 10 brothers and sisters; Dejango admires my father greatly," said DeGree of her son's desire to have a large family. DeGree's daughter, Delaina Martinez, is a doctor in Los Angeles, Calif., where she lives with her husband and their two children.
DeGree says that her main reason for retiring is age, but she also wants to travel. "I want to see my family. All 11 of us are still here, and I want some time to be able to visit my brothers and sisters," DeGree said. She believes that 31 years is long enough. "It is time to go," DeGree said. "I will miss the students, but I have been here long enough."