After 34 years in education — 33 in Fairfax County and the past four years as Cub Run Elementary's principal, Craig Metcalfe has certainly earned his retirement.
BUT WHEN sixth-graders interviewed kindergartners during Metcalfe's retirement ceremony and asked them why they thought their principal was retiring now, one kindergartner said, "He's real tired and he needs to rest." Another replied simply, "He wants to have time to play with his wife."
Actually, his wife Maggie retired a year ago from teaching at Navy Elementary after 30 years in education in the county, so both of them will have lots of time to spend together.
Metcalfe, 56, taught a year in Bland, Va., prior to coming to this county. He also spent 10 years as assistant principal at Brookfield Elementary and two years in that post at Cub Run, prior to taking over the reins there as principal.
At the retirement ceremony, "to enable the little ones to understand how many years I'd been working," said Metcalfe, he had 34 students stand up across the gym. "I had them sit down each time a teacher said how many years he or she had been teaching." The longest was 28 years — and six students were still standing, to represent Metcalfe's 34 years.
Each grade did something special during the assembly. Metcalfe likes country music, so the first-graders dressed up as cowboys and cowgirls, in scarves and bandanas, and sang their own country song with special words the teachers had written just for him.
The second-graders turned him into their "Flat Stanley," like the popular children's-book character, dressing their "Flat Mr. Metcalfe" paper dolls in the clothes they thought he'd be wearing in retirement. Some dressed him in pajamas, bathing suits, fancy suits and athletic clothes plus a headband.
Third-graders gave him an "SOL" test with questions about Cub Run, such as what the school was named after and the school colors. And, said Metcalfe, "They also wrote what they thought I should be doing in retirement, such as taking trips, fishing, surfing and buying a polar bear."
Fourth-grade students and teachers also dressed in western wear and sang a country song they'd written especially for him. And fifth-graders wrote notes of appreciation, telling him what Cub Run meant to them.
Sixth-graders planted a blue-and-white hydrangea in front of the school, in his honor. And at the end of the assembly, the entire student body sang a special song to him that the music teachers had taught them.
"THERE WASN'T a dry eye in the house — and all the children sang in perfect sync," said Metcalfe. "I was overwhelmed. I'll have a lot of memories to take with me."
PTA President Michele Ford gave him a plaque with a clock in it, from the PTA, since he likes clocks. And Cathy Bowers of the NRO, the school's business partner, also presented him with a plaque.
During his time at Cub Run, said Metcalfe, the biggest change has been in the realm of technology. "We hired a school-based, technology specialist to be here, year 'round, and we purchased SmartBoards," he said. "They're special boards that interact with a computer by touch."
He said Cub Run also got access to special Web sites for teachers. For example, teachers may go into Project Ride and find suggestions on how to get students to turn in their homework. Teaching Made Easier contains spelling, science and math games, and Reading from A to Z helps teachers with reading assessments and tells how to improve student reading.
"And we bought 32 new, desktop computers," said Metcalfe. "Our goal now is to keep getting new computers each year. And all teachers have wireless laptops."
And three years ago, Cub Run began focusing on inclusion. "The staff went to numerous workshops to learn how to co-teach special ed and general education students together, and it's been very successful," said Metcalfe.
He said the most challenging part of his job was keeping up with all the required student tests and assessments. "They have a life of their own," he said. "Sometimes, I think we're getting a little carried away with it. And not all students are on the same page at the same time." In addition, said Metcalfe, testing the ESOL population also takes lots of time.
His greatest satisfaction was "working with the children — the enjoyment of seeing that lightbulb go off when they get it. That's why you go into teaching, and that's what makes it all worthwhile. So making my classroom observations and seeing students learning are my happiest times."
Metcalfe said children want to share with adults what they're doing, so "not only do you see good teachers teaching, but kids excited about what they're learning, and that's the greatest joy." Now, he said, he's definitely going to miss a lot of people — "parents, the kids and some very good teachers who were also friends."
Fourth-grade teacher Barbara Smith has taught at Cub Run since 1988 and noted several of Metcalfe's strengths. "Craig is definitely a great plant-manager; he's gotten things fixed and gotten new things for the school," she said. "He led us through 9/11 and the sniper time and is A-No. 1 as far as safety and preparedness is concerned. At his retirement party for faculty and guests, we even did a spoof of his ABCs of preparedness to show his loving care toward the school and us."
DESCRIBING Cub Run as a "TLC school" — a teaching, learning and caring community — Smith said it happened under his watch. "His door has always been open, and he's always been there for me, whether it's a personal or professional need," said Smith. "He's done a good job supporting the teachers, and he was savvy enough four years ago to get our new principal, Jenni Coakley, as our assistant principal."
Fifth-grade teacher Nancy Andersen has taught 14 years at Cub Run and called Metcalfe a "very caring individual. He lived our TLC motto and supported it fully. And he was concerned about excellent teaching and children's learning."
Andersen served as Faculty Advisory Committee chairman, working as a liaison between the staff and administration, and she said Metcalfe was "always very open to listening to concerns, desires and questions and seeing what could be done about them."
She also noted the many late nights and weekends he spent at the school. "His heart was always in the job and doing the best for kids, and he enjoyed visiting them and seeing what they were doing in their classrooms," she said. "He participated in school events, too, and we always appreciated seeing him."
Andersen praised Metcalfe, as well, for promoting and growing the Cub Run/NRO business partnership. "I've worked for many principals, and he's done a great job," she said. "He worked hard at it and really cared about the kids."
Now he and his wife will move from their Chantilly home to a new house they're designing and building in Jamestown. "It's close to family in Northern Virginia, and my brother is building across the street from us," explained Metcalfe. "We'll be on the water, so we'll go boating and fishing. The Cub Run fourth-graders go to the settlement of Jamestown every year, so they said they'd call and tell me when they're coming, so I could stand on the roadway and wave as they drove by."