This Thursday, June 2, is the last day of school for Dallas ISD, and Stonewall Jackson Elementary will say goodbye to five of its beloved educators, at least four of which have poured three decades or more into the school. Among them are teachers in the school’s successful deaf education program; the wife of the school’s recently retired and longtime garden instructor, who initiated Stonewall Gardens with her second-grade class 20 years ago; and the school’s affectionately termed “chicken guy.”
The campus recently hosted a celebration to honor these teachers and wrote these tributes for each of them:
“Coach Jim Morris loves the first day of each school year to see how much the Stonewall students have grown over the summer. ‘Plus, they always come in the first day with big smiles,’ he says. Morris has been seeing those big smiling faces at Stonewall for 33 years, having spent seven in deaf education after 26 years teaching P.E. ‘My best memories are those of the former students who come back to visit. I always get a great feeling when they are in high school or older and think enough of me to come back.’ Morris credits Marcia Savard as a someone who always kept him focused and required 100 percent from him ‘just as she does her students,’ and Sue Human, his mentor ‘from beginning to end.’ ‘She told me I would know when it was time to retire because I would be able to give up being with kids,’ he says. But we don’t know what we’ll do without you Mr. Morris!
It’s hard to find Stonewall counselor Craig Keith without a sidekick — either a student or his golden retriever Barclay, or both. ‘Seeing the adoration on the faces of the students when they pet Barclay … really affirms my faith that at our core we are loving beings,’ he says. Keith is ‘real big’ on the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ‘I tell the students that if they follow the golden rule they will have a good life!’ he says. Keith says he hopes that Stonewall stays a diverse school with a positive and caring staff. Here, here, Mr. Keith — we will miss you helping us keep our children grounded as well.
During fourth-grade teacher Mark Orozco’s 38-year tenure at Stonewall, the school has more than doubled in size. ‘The school board had been considering closing many of these smaller schools and we feared Stonewall Jackson might be shut down. I had been the director of the Sign [Language] Choir at the time, and in an effort to encourage the district to rethink its position, our choir performed at a school board meeting,’ he says. Needless to say, the board was convinced. Orozco says that when he started, it was hard to imagine more than a handful of parents attending a PTA meeting. ‘The development of the garden and the role it plays in the daily education of our children was an idea no-one could have imagined in 1978,’ he says. ‘This is just one example of the remarkable vision which has always been prevalent on our campus from both the faculty and the parents of our students.’ He has one wish for Stonewall students: They become life-long learners.
Bill Pittillo is the often the first faculty face that students see coming into Stonewall. He works on the southeast corner of the school crossing walk, and he’s been a staple around Stonewall for 35 years. In fact, when Pittillo started at the school in 1981, only one tree on the playground was planted. Now the students have one of the few playgrounds in the district that is littered with shade. Pittillo has loved teaching all different grades, but particularly remembers kindergarten fondly, he says.’Kids would say the funniest things,’ he said. ‘You were never bored.’ He will be heading to New Mexico on June 9 to start his retirement. We sure will miss your smiling face Mr. Pittillo!
Evelyn Painter credits her father for her career path. ‘Picking cotton under the blazing hot summer sun as a small child was not a lot of fun. But I can still hear my Pop’s words: “Avelina, you must not leave any cotton on the stalks. This is money for college when you will study to become a teacher,” ‘ she says. ‘Perhaps it was because he only went to the third-grade that education was very important to him. Anyway, he always treated me like a teacher.’ Painter has been a teacher for 30 years, most recently as a second-grade teacher at Stonewall. She says the best part of teaching is the students. ‘There is so much excitement in learning, and when I can get them excited about learning the rewards are amazing.’ Painter says it is an exhausting job but it is often a good exhaustion. ‘After 30 years, I still feel that I am where I belong.’ “
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