Duval and Stred are ready to take off on their royal tour.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Mary Stred and Christina Duval have racked up enough years between them at Clarksburg Elementary School to qualify for a diamond jubilee.
So the two retiring teachers were treated like royalty on Monday, complete with tiaras, a black limousine, throngs of admirers lining the roadway, and waves that would impress even the queen.
The teachers were making their final goodbyes on the last day of the school year. Stred and Duval, bedecked in colorful leis and plastic, jeweled tiaras announcing "Officially Retired" were escorted from the school office by Grade 3 teacher Lisa Boyer and Administrative Assistant Mary Giron to their waiting coach — a 1950 Plymouth De Luxe, courtesy of John Blair.
They laughed as they got into the back seat and Blair drove down the long driveway to the back of the school, turned and came back up as children, teachers and Principal Tara Barnes cheered and waved. Blair, who also retired from the school several years ago after 19 years as the custodian, then took the pair on a circuit around the town.
Stred has worked at Clarksburg School for more than three decades, first as a teaching assistant and as a permanent substitute. During her career at the school, she's taught junior high, Grades 4 and 5, and Title 1.
"I'm completing my 30th year as a full-time teacher," she said. "This year I taught kindergarten. This is my first kindergarten and my last class."
Duval's been the school's physical education teacher since right out of college. After 35 years, she's seen a lot of changes to phys ed education.
"There's so many changes with women being included in everything and so many opportunities for girls," she said. "It changed from throwing out the ball and playing kickball every day to really going to standards and teaching about health and lifestyles and being active forever."
In addition to decades working together at Clarksburg, the two teachers also have an unusual connection — Tennessee. Stred is originally from east Tennessee and earned her degree from Transylvania University in Kentucky. Duval, a North Adams native and Drury High graduate, got her degree from the University of Tennessee.
After college, Stred moved to the Berkshires when she married in 1973; Duval returned right after college and "was fortunate enough to land here. This is the best school in the country."
That's something they both agree on.
"I had three sons who went through this school and now I have two grandchildren here," Stred said. "When I substituted here, I said to my husband, we will buy a house in Clarksburg and our children will go to that school. That's how special it is."
Superintendent Jon Lev, who is also retiring, noted that the two teachers a part of a cadre of veterans who have been both mentors and institutional memories of the school's traditions.
"It's good to have a school with a combination of teachers who have been around a long time, veterans, and newer younger teachers with a lot of energy," he said. "I think they provide a lot of help to the younger teachers. It's really nice to have that combination. ...
"They'll be missed because they have a long history here and Clarksburg has always been a school with a lot of tradition. It makes it a little harder to keep those traditions going when you lose older teachers."
They will be replaced with new teachers who will bring new energy to the school and that, he said, "is wonderful also."
Stred is planning to split her time with summers here, near her two grandchildren, and winters in North Carolina, where two more grandchildren live. Duval has no immediate plans other than to play lots of golf this summer and relax. They both say they will keep connections with the school and their colleagues.
"I'm going miss the camaraderie, the school culture that this school has," Duval said, especially her "kids," a term she uses for her students even with her own children. "They're my kids. I've seen them grow and seen their names in the papers and seen their successes. I think what I'll miss most is when I start reading about kids from Clarksburg and I won't remember them."
Stred said she'll also miss the students, but even more so the professional people she's worked with who have helped shape her and her career.
"The teachers in my past, the teachers in my present," she said. "We weren't just co-workers, we were a family. I will miss that and the children, too, but it's truly the relationships with the adults in this building who have made me who I am."
northadams.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.