Aloha Ms. Watson
Sparkman Elementary says goodbye to long-time teacher
By Renee Shadden
"You know 'Aloha' means goodbye and hello in Hawaii," Jan Watson said as she opened a gift bag containing an airbrushed T-shirt with the words "Aloha Jan" written across the front.
Co-workers and students past and present gathered together in the newest edition of Sparkman Elementary School to celebrate Watson's 30 years of teaching with the school.
The Hawaiian-themed event brought together the things Watson loved most: Hawaii and kids. Since Watson has traveled to Hawaii nine times and has toured all of the islands, co-workers thought the theme was a fitting departure.
Grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts, leis, beach furniture and bright colors decorated the room along with photos of Watson's first and last classes.
Watson was drawn to her first and only teaching job in 1972 because of the homey atmosphere of what was then known as Plainview Elementary School.
"When I first started teaching I had a chance to go to a Decatur school or Plainview and I had this image of a white fence in the country and Plainview was it," Watson said.
Watson has spent most of the last 30 years teaching first grade students.
Occasionally, she taught first and second grade combination classes or second and third grade combination classes, but she always came back to first graders. "I will miss the kids, but I am coming back," Watson said.
"I'm going to volunteer one day a week to help Ms. Kilgore (second grade teacher) with her reading program."
Testimonials from former students and current principal Ronnie Moore were given. "I tried to talk her out of leaving," Moore said.
"Anything good you could think of to say about a teacher, you can say about her. I never had to worry about her because I knew she did her job. You can just look at the success of her former students and tell that."
Former student and current co-worker Beverly Vest said, "I used to think Ms. Watson was the tallest person in the world, but it's funny now because we're the same height."
Three of Vest's children have also been taught by Watson.
"I think she retired so she wouldn't have to teach Abby (Vest's youngest child)," Barbara Morgan said. Morgan is Abby's grandmother and also a co-worker of Watson's.
Besides volunteering at Sparkman, Watson also plans to volunteer her time in nursing homes.
"I was a caregiver to my mom and dad and my grandmother and I enjoy visiting nursing homes," Watson said. "I love kids and the elderly."
Watson also plans to travel, presumably to Hawaii.