New chapter begins as longtime local teachers bid farewell
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 13:27

Area schools say goodbye to retiring teachers

by Nicole Rodman

    Teaching is tough.

Between the long hours, mountains of paperwork and often thankless nature of the job, it is not a career for the faint of heart.
    Though half of all teachers never make it to their sixth year, some spend decades honing their craft in the classroom.
    As the school year comes to an end, a number of longtime teachers will be retiring from schools across the area.

    “If there were such thing as ‘Mr. SPHS,’ Sandy would be the front runner,” Sparrows Point High School principal Samuel Wynkoop told The Eagle last week.   
    A 41-year classroom veteran, Harry “Sandy” Runyan began his career in Baltimore City before being hired by Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) in 1978.
    He came to Sparrows Point High School in 1985.    
    In his time at Sparrows Point, Runyan has taught many science courses, including biology and aquatic science.
    “There have been none better at being able to make science instruction engaging, exciting  and relevant,” Wynkoop noted.
    Outside of the classroom, Runyan also stayed busy — coaching volleyball, basketball and lacrosse for 15 years.
    While Runyan notes that he will “miss my students and fellow teachers,” he is eager to see what retirement has to offer.
    “I plan to enjoy my hobbies — hunting, fishing, boating, camping, shucking oysters,” he noted.
    He also plans to spend more time with his family, including his four grandchildren.
    While he has lots of plans for his retirement, Runyan will always look back fondly on his time at Sparrows Point.
    “It has been a wonderful ride for me; the kids have kept me young. SPHS is a special place and the best high school in Baltimore County.”

Farewell to ‘family’
    For Deborah Thomas, the Sparrows Point High School community is family.
    As she begins a new chapter of life, Thomas has mixed emotions about saying farewell to the school where she has taught math for 20 years.
    “I will miss my ‘family’ here at Sparrows Point but most of all I will miss the kids,” she noted.
    Thomas began teaching in Baltimore City in 1973. She remained there for three years until having her son.
    Staying home to raise her son and daughter, Thomas picked up her teaching career again in 1989.
    She taught at Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University) for five years before starting at Sparrows Point High School in 1994.
    In her time at Sparrows Point, Thomas has become a fixture in the school’s math department.
    “Her demeanor and expertise in her classroom have had tremendous positive impacts on her students and their learning,” Wynkoop noted. “She will be missed by Pointer Nation.”
    While Thomas will miss  her colleagues and students, she is eager to spend more time with her children and grandchildren.
    “I will get the chance to put grandchildren on the bus on the first day of school next year and see school activities that I have had to miss,” she explained.
    She is also looking forward to traveling with her husband.
    Despite the adventures that await her, Thomas can not help but look back at what she is leaving behind.
    “To all of my past students please let them know they mean the world to me and I was blessed to have each and every one of them!”

A family affair
    For Aldona Nash, teaching at Colgate Elementary School was a family affair.
    She began her career as a first-grade teacher at Colgate in 1978.
    While she was nervous, she found much-needed support in a fellow first grade teacher — her sister, Ingrid Spieker.
    “I looked up to her so much, and now we would become the ‘Sisters of Colgate’ for the next 27 years,” Nash explained.
    Not one for change, Nash settled in at Colgate — where she would teach first, second and third grades for the next 36 years.
    Over the years, many things have changed but one thing has always remained constant.
    “The Colgate staff has always been the best,” she exclaimed.
    “You will not find a more caring and devoted group of teachers!”
    Nash decided to retire after a facing a series of health problems, including a partial mastectomy in November and a back injury in February.
    While she called the decision to retire “the hardest decision I have ever had to make,” Nash is looking forward to spending more time with her family.
    Nevertheless, she will always miss her colleagues and students at Colgate.
    “I can honestly say it will be bittersweet to leave Colgate. It will forever be part of my heart!”   
Trying new things
    Throughout her years in the classroom, Colgate kindergarten teacher Dana Krug has educated children at nearly every level.
    Beginning her career in 1974, Krug taught in a 3-year-old and prekindergarten program before putting her career on hold to raise her children.
    Returning to the classroom, she taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and served as a reading specialist for elementary and high school students before coming to Colgate six years ago.
    In retirement, Krug plans to spend more time with her family, including her husband and her mother.
    She is also looking forward to trying some new things.
    “My husband wants me to cook more, so I will be looking for some new healthful recipes,” she said. “Perhaps take up yoga, and the rest I haven’t figured out.”
    While she will not be at Colgate next year, she will continue to think fondly of the school.
    As she concluded, “Even though I won’t be at Colgate in body, I will always keep Colgate in my heart.”

Making beautiful music
    Music teacher Catherine Cunningham has been making beautiful music in the classroom for 38 years – 14 of them at Charlesmont Elementary School.
    She began her career as a vocal music teacher at Woodlawn Middle School.
    Over the years, she has taught students from kindergarten to grade 12 at 13 schools across the county.
    In her time with BCPS, Cunningham has organized the BCPS All-County Children’s Chorus and Recorder Festival and written curriculum for the BCPS Office of Music.
    Later in her career, Cunningham added elementary and technology education to her repertoire.
    She recently earned a master’s degree in technology from Johns Hopkins University.
    Last year, Cunningham’s classroom prowess was recognized as she was honored as an Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce.
    In retirement, Cunningham is looking forward to spending time with family — including a new grandchild — and friends, as well as traveling.
    She will, however, continue to miss her students  and colleagues at Charlesmont.
    “I’ll miss  the children. They are wonderful, keep you young, always exciting and surprising,” she said, concluding, “Charlesmont has been a wonderful place to end my career and I will miss this lovely Blue Ribbon gem of a school.”

Other retirees
    Other longtime local teachers retiring this year include Sparrows Point Middle School drama and language arts teacher Paul Sacks, who will retire after 38 years, and science teacher Jennifer Griffith, retiring after 20 years.
    General John Stricker Middle School math teacher Rebecca Kelly will retire at the end of the school year after 14 years of service to county schools.
    Bruce Null, a vocational and special education teacher, will retire after 24 years with BCPS.
    Null taught at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts and Sollers Point Technical High School.