After eight years as principal of Groveton Elementary, Christine Lamb is planning to retire at the end of this school year.
A resident of Alexandria since 1979 and veteran of five school districts, Lamb said she leaves her career with mixed feelings.
"It's the right time to go. After 38 years in a profession it's part of you. It's hard to stop. I could always find another project. I could find another student that needed more help. There will always be new teachers coming in [who need training]. On the other hand we're at a very good place, I'm very glad that the teachers have taken [a leadership] role.
"For the first time I don't know what I'm going to be doing," she said. "Maybe some consulting. I sort of feel like a college student finishing school. I haven't had that feeling in a long time."
Lamb moved to Alexandria when she and her husband moved from Pennsylvania. Her husband had a contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was traveling every week to teach in Virginia. In order to eliminate the lengthy commute, the family opted to move.
Lamb then took a job with the public school system, continuing teaching and serving various leadership roles. Becoming principal, she said, was a natural evolution of her career.
"When I came to Groveton eight years ago it was a school without a consistent focus for the student membership that was here at the time," Lamb said.
Over her time at Groveton, Lamb has made efforts to involve parents in school activities and to train staff to continue their own education and expand their teaching styles.
"I think she's leaving a staff and culture that really embraces learning, not only as a student but as staff," said Bonita Mitchell, who has worked with Lamb as assistant principal for four years.
"I think it inspires the staff to move in that direction," Mitchell said. "It's obvious that she's continuing her own education. She does it all — she doesn't ask anything of staff that she herself wouldn't do. She's a passionate person with strong beliefs, and dedicated. Very dedicated."
As a Title I school, Groveton carries a higher percentage of special needs students — students who need help with learning English, who receive federal aid, or who receive instruction from special education classes. With a community with so many dynamics, Lamb said it was especially important for students and their families to be involved in the school community.
"When I came here eight years ago parents weren't comfortable coming in if they [didn't look like] a middle class family," Lamb said. "Now they come right in."
Lamb said that the school expanded its activities to include parents, to broaden the support for both the families and the students.
Gordon Baer, a sixth grade student who has attended Groveton for six of his seven years in elementary school, said that the out of school activities were a fun way to spend time after school.
"They're fun," he said. "There's homework club, and philosopher's club, and after school remediation — which is not really fun but it's good for you."
ONE THING THAT most people probably don't realize about Lamb is how much she really cares, Mitchell said.
"When you run a school you have to be very firm. She really cares not just about the students but the whole school. We're certainly going to miss her. Her leadership, her drive, it's phenomenal. She's done so much for this school and this community."
The "coolest" thing about Lamb is that she goes to all of the activities, Baer said.
"She's cool. She's very cool. She went to our hemlock trip," he said.
While the sixth grade class participated in a ropes course and teamwork exercises, Baer said that Lamb was there with them, cheering them on. "She's very nice to us and not all principals are that nice, you know. They get tougher and tougher each year."
Not Lamb. She has always been very active, supporting students at all the out of school activities, he said.
After she leaves, Baer said he thinks Lamb will either "have a career in something" or take a break.
"She deserves a break," he said. "[I mean], she's been here umpteen years."