After traveling the world on the wings of her husband’s military career, Carolyn M. Gisriel found her home at Sterling Middle School.
The world traveler has been teaching seventh-graders language arts and U.S. history for 27 years.
"I have tried to guide many willing and unwilling students through the subject matter while using art, music and humor," she said.
Like Gisriel, fellow teacher Lynn F. Whittington has seen the world. However, she has seen the it through the eyes of her students.
Whittington has been teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at Sterling Middle School for 10 and a half years.
"I feel like I’ve traveled the world because I’ve worked with wonderful kids from so many countries," she said. "I’m amazed at their ability to adjust."
Both Gisriel and Whittington will be retiring from Sterling Middle School this year.
STERLING MIDDLE School Principal Michael Williams has known Gisriel for a long time.
"She's quick to see a student's needs," he said. "She has a sixth sense."
During a band and choral concert last Thursday, eighth-graders dedicated the song "Our American" to Gisriel.
"Knowing about my love for music, I received a wonderful send off from the audience, the students and the music department," she said.
During the last performance, the students surprised the teacher with a bouquet of flowers. The memory brought tears to her eyes.
For Whittington, the halls are filled with more than 10 years of lasting memories.
"We have a million stories," she said.
Whittington told a story about a memorable Thanksgiving Day party with her ESL students in the school’s cafeteria. In the midst of the holiday celebration, the students — many of whom were new to the United States and the cold weather — ran outside.
"I looked and saw that it was snowing," she said. "They just had to experience it."
Williams said he has heard Whittington talk about how much she will miss the students. Even though she's leaving, he still hears her talking about new projects and ways to reach children.
"I'm amazed that she's still trying to improve as a teacher even as she's resigning," he said.
BOTH TEACHERS said they will miss Sterling Middle School, but they are looking forward to spending time with family. They are busy making plans.
"There comes a time in everyone’s career when it is time to move on," Gisriel said. "I am ready for the next exciting stage of my life while I’m healthy enough to enjoy whatever comes my way."
During the summer, Gisriel and her husband will be moving to Mechanicsville, Va., where they are building their new home.
"We plan to travel, spend time with our children and grandchildren and become involved in our new community," she said, "and learn how to do something unrelated to teaching."
The week after school gets out, Whittington and her sister are taking their 80-year-old mother to Disney World for her birthday.
She, too, plans to spend time with her grandchild and stay in touch with the community.
"I’ll help with my church ESL program," she said.