The McKinney school district recently held its annual Retirement and Years of Service Banquet, during which retirees shared some of their most memorable teaching moments.

From touching stories to humorous ones, the teachers reflected on long-time careers spent in the service of children.

McKinney school officials say they truly appreciate the contributions and the dedication of all those who commit their lives to serving students in public education.

Robin Lowrey

  • 31 Years in Education
  • 20 Years with McKinney ISD

"One memory that stands out is with a student who will forever hold a special place in my heart. His love of life and big smile made my day. We would do a journal at the beginning of each week. I wrote a sentence starter on the board and I told each student to stay on the topic, write three sentences and end with an exciting conclusion.

"I noticed that Joe ended his first journal with the conclusion of, 'I love my life' even though it did not match the topic. The next week was the same way and each week after. I did not have the heart to say that it did not match. Even though it didn’t match his topic, I thought …why not???

"Every journal that year ended with 'I love my life!' It became the motto in our room. We were a family and we started and ended each day with, 'I love my life!' Joe and I taught the students that it should be the conclusion of each day.

"Thanks to Joe for reminding us how important life is! I also need to mention that Joe is a special needs child with Down Syndrome. God blessed us with a very special child."

 Kathryn Swadley

  • 30 Years in Education
  • 12 Years with McKinney ISD

"One year, I had students at the beginning of the year putting their heads down to sleep during my class. I told them that I didn't allow students to sleep and that I only had that year to get them ready for senior English and college. Several hands went into the air: 'Ms., no one's ever talked to us about college.'

"I went home and cried that night for them, for their hopelessness, and for their futures. I prayed that I could make a difference in their lives. That particular class became my "Project." Every day and any time during the class when someone began to hang their heads, I would tell them all that they were winners. When one of them said, 'I can't do this,' I would say to the class, 'What are we?' They would respond enthusiastically, 'We're winners!!' I encouraged them with the 'We are winners' motto throughout the year.

"Many years later, I was at a little league baseball game for one of my sons. I went to the concession stand to get a drink, and a bearded man said, 'Ms. Swadley, is that you?' Yes, it is I, I responded, knowing that he had probably been a student from my past.

"What are we?" he asked.

"Excuse me?" I responded.

"What are we?" he again asked.

I was completely stumped.

"We're winners, Ms. Swadley. We're winners!"

Suzette Buchanan

  • 30 Years in Education
  • 6 Years with McKinney ISD

"I have always worked with special education students. I feel that my most memorable event was on a meet the teacher night. I had gone to the school to meet a new math teacher my daughter had for her advanced math class. To my surprise, when the teacher turned around to greet me, he was a former student of mine. 

"I had taught him resource math in middle school and he was up to grade level when he entered high school. After graduating from high school he went to college majored in engineering and returned to his high school to pay back by teaching for three years. I could not have been prouder that one of my former students was able to succeed and overcome his learning disability."

Sandra Barber

  • 37 Years in Education
  • 13 Years with McKinney ISD

"Over 37 years ago I made a conscious decision to pursue a degree in a field of work that would give me the opportunity to be of service. My passion for working with children was grounded in a desire to make a difference and to help students grow academically, emotionally and socially.  Throughout my years as a classroom teacher I had the opportunity to champion hundreds of students in their pursuit of academic achievement.

"While I knew I was being influential with students at the classroom level, I felt there was a greater calling for me in reaching beyond just impacting students to impacting those who are charged with the responsibility of educating our children for the future. 

"It was at that point that I realized that I wanted to be able to share my talents and reach out to multiple students and teachers. My thirteen years as a campus principal have been the most fulfilling of my career. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to influence growth and achievement in both students and teachers."

Joanne Brown

  • 26 Years in Education
  • 21 Years with McKinney ISD

"It was my second year, teaching seventh-grade math in a junior high school. Seventh grade was the first time the boys took a real Physical Education class. One of the boys in my class was so proud of his new PE equipment (i.e.- jock strap and cup)  that when he brought it to school the first time he couldn’t contain himself.

"Next thing I know, he was holding the apparatus up for me (and the entire world) to see and exclaimed, 'Look Mrs. Brown! We have to wear jock straps in PE class! I’ve never had one of these before!' I don’t remember the boy’s name, but this event ranks near the top for most embarrassing. I was only 23 years old and had never seen a jock strap!"

Malinda Burke

  • 32 Years in Education
  • 3 Years with McKinney ISD

"Teachers change lives. That’s what we do. Along the way our students change us, too. After 20 years of working mostly with gifted and talented students, I accepted a new challenge. I was asked to design a plan for at-risk middle school students who had no attendance or discipline concerns and had never been retained or referred for special education.  

"Enter Elizabeth, who could not read -- not even her own name. Because Elizabeth’s oral comprehension was good and teachers had mostly given her oral or group assessments, she didn’t know that she couldn’t read! My job was to teach Elizabeth to read and write. With hard work, Elizabeth learned to read and write fluently by the end of eighth grade, publishing two short stories and three poems in national writing magazines. 

"Elizabeth graduated on time, taking several AP courses. She completed her associate’s degree. Here’s to the Elizabeths who have touched all of our lives!"

Karen Burnett

  • 33 Years in Education
  • 33 Years with McKinney ISD

"To describe my most memorable teaching moment in the past three decades is impossible -- there are too many. However, my most inspirational moment is simple.

"At some point in the life of every teacher, we come to the realization that we are not simply imparting knowledge to a child, but rather reaching into the very soul of another human to leave a lasting imprint.

"To empower a child with the knowledge and skills they will need to become a productive member of society isn't enough. They must know that they are special, that they matter to someone and that there'll always be someone outside the boundaries of home who cares. There is no greater inspiring moment than when this realization ignites in a teacher’s heart."

Rose Carter

  • 46 Years in Education
  • 11 Years with McKinney ISD

"While a senior in high school, my English teacher became the principal and a young teacher who focused on writing came in as the new English teacher. Writing opened up a new world for me so when I became a teacher, I wanted my students to get that same experience.

"For 46 years writing has been the focus of my teaching because it requires students to think, and when you think about what you are studying you learn it. At the beginning of this school year, my students from the previous year came to me and said that when their teacher asked them questions about writing strategies, they were the only ones who knew all the answers because they had learned the skills in my class. They were proud and so was I.

"I have been a bilateral amputee since age 4 and took my first steps on prostheses at 5 years. I tell my students that I am physically challenged so that they will keep the aisles clear in order that I can move about the room. I am inspired by how their books are cleared from the aisles as I move about the room. Their sensitivity to my need is probably the greatest lesson in sensitivity training that could ever be taught."

George Christ

  • 39 Years in Education
  • 5 Years with McKinney ISD

"During my 39 years in teaching, no program has touched me more than First Steps in Mathematics. This Australian program promotes mathematical reasoning and thinking through a developmental approach.

"A group of teachers and instructional specialists went with me to the first seven days of intense training. Our plan was to start the training on a small scale – perhaps with only kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers. Working through the materials together, however, built the group’s excitement about teaching mathematics differently.

"The group believed that all teachers in McKinney ISD needed to know this information. Thus, a multi-year commitment to First Steps began. The dedication and commitment of groups of professionals have inspired me throughout my career. This group, and the teachers and others who share their enthusiasm for First Steps, have continued that inspiration. Hard work associated with implementing the program has become easier when we worked hard together."

Janet Ebey

  • 42 Years in Education
  • 7 Years with McKinney ISD

"What a glorious 42 years it has been! Every year has been special. I have been so blessed by my fellow teachers and administrators, but especially by my students. 

"I will never forget working with some students on a difficult math concept. The children were all saying how hard it was when one precious little girl spoke up saying: 'Yes, it is hard now, but once we learn it; it will be easy!' Her comment changed the attitude of the whole group, and it wasn’t long before they were all smiling and talking about how easy it was for them now."

"One of my favorite mottos is 'Success breeds success.' My goal has been to give my students a feeling of success each day.  Then, every day is brighter because I get to see those bright eyes and big smiles that warm my heart!"

Anna Evans

  • 19 Years in Education
  • 12 Years with McKinney ISD

"Rather than an Inspirational Teaching Moment, from which there are too many to choose, my memory is one that taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.  Several years ago, an administrator, whom I have long admired from Central Office, stopped me in the hall and said, 'Anna, when I grow up, I want to be you.' I giggled, 'Oh, you wouldn’t want to be like me.'

"She replied, 'I didn’t say I wanted to be like you, I said when I grow up, I want to be you.'

"Though puzzled at that moment, I have come to recognize the valuable lesson she taught me that day. My professional life has revolved around a field of study that I believe in and love. I have been surrounded by teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, and administrators whose master skills inspired me to become better at what I loved to do, and been deeply humbled by amazing students who named me their most inspirational teacher. MISD endorsed and supported an amazing program that places students on a path to be our future teachers and allowed me to teach it. I have been extended friendships with students and educators that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  In hind-sight, who would not want to be me? I am blessed. Thank you, MISD.  It’s been a great run!"

Nina McClellan

  • 40 Years in Education
  • 40 Years with McKinney ISD

"I started teaching when the Greer Building was 'North Ward' and Roy Walker was the principal. I remember standing in my first classroom and realizing that whatever I did in that room was going to affect the lives of children. It was a bit overwhelming, yet exciting at the same time. I remember spending my first day of school trying to get a student out from behind the trash can…and the rest of the year trying to put him back. I still both grimace and smile when I think of him.

"I remember being broken hearted when I had to leave my beloved Fanny Finch after 28 years and then finding myself so deeply blessed by eight wonderful years at C. T.  Eddins. The last 40 years have been quite a trip. I am glad I got to come along for the ride."

Julia Smith

  • 32 Years in Education
  • 11 Years with McKinney ISD

"When reflecting on memorable moments in my teaching career, many faces swim to the surface and float by like clouds in the sky. One moment and student that stands out is D. He struggled this year with making correct behavior choices and I was baffled by the change in this usually happy little boy. 

"As the school year progressed, we moved through all the stages of dealing with inappropriate behaviors but always coupled with conversation and plans for making better choices. As the school year turned to spring, gradually there was a difference. His smile was back and his daily report was great. 

"Recently, students filled out links in a chain of appreciation and his read: 'I want to honor Mrs. Smith by thanking her for working at Malvern. You are nice like our mama bird taking care of us; you make sure that we are at school so that we can learn. Thank you!!'

"And moments like that are why I became an educator."      

 Mary Jo Thompson

  • 41 Years in Education
  • 11 Years with McKinney ISD

"There are many special moments that occurred during my teaching career, but the one that immediately came to mind involved a trip to the Meyerson to hear the Dallas Symphony perform. My young friend loves classical music and the opportunity to observe him as he experienced this event was priceless. I positioned him so he could see and hear as much as possible of the performance.

"My friend looked at me with a puzzled expression as though asking 'Where are we?' and 'Why are we here?' The first notes from the instruments drew his gaze back to the orchestra, and the expression on his face as the music filled the hall was pure joy. 

"He turned to me and smiled, speaking volumes without uttering a word. Those moments of perfect communication epitomize the special moments of my teaching career."

Marjorie Wilkov

  • 17 Years in Education
  • 8 Years with McKinney ISD

"Of all the memorable events, a week ago I experienced one that topped the charts. A middle school student had been using the dyslexia program for only nine months. He was a transfer student that could have fallen through the cracks.

"I had him read a list of words cold turkey, and I could see his frustration level increasing. When I stopped him, he was visibly relieved. Then I asked him to use the codes I had taught him from our program. I could hear a slight sigh of relief as the student coded the words, and then he read the list perfectly!

"I told him he was living proof our MISD dyslexia program works!  He smiled and we had a good laugh!"


About the author: Shane Mauldin is a communications specialist with McKinney ISD.