Today, Wednesday Sept. 30, 2020, my mother will walk out of E.O. Young Jr. Elementary School in Vance County, North Carolina, for the final time. After 39 years of teaching my mother is retiring from the education field.

She has spent her entire career teaching everything from preschool handicap children, kindergarten and on up to fifth grade. She grew up in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania called Corry, which is just outside of Erie. In 1982 she ended up in Mecklenburg County where she began her teaching career. Teaching jobs are coveted in Pennsylvania and at the time it was nearly impossible to find an open position fresh out of college so my mom traveled south to begin her teaching career.

She met my dad one night at Brian’s Steakhouse in South Hill, and they married in 1983. I came along in 1985, and my brother in 1987. My dad started working for the ABC Board and we moved around several times. Dad finally worked his way back to his home in Mecklenburg in 2000 and after one year teaching in Mecklenburg, my mom moved to Vance County, North Carolina, where she has been ever since. In total she worked 38 full years of teaching and part of her 39th.

The thing about my mother and most other teachers is that teaching doesn’t stop when the bell rings at the end of the day. Weekends are not spent relaxing and catching up on other things. I cannot tell you how many hours were spent late into the night grading papers, filling out report cards, progress reports or lesson plans. My mother worked tirelessly to make sure that she had everything together and in order so that her children got the education they deserved.

Growing up my brother and I spent day after day each summer inside of the school while she worked on setting up her classroom for the next school year. Whether she had moved classrooms and had to unpack everything or she just needed to get things in order, she spent so much time making sure everything was just right even when she didn’t have to be there.

Although my mother spent countless hours after school working on things, she never failed in her duties as a mother or wife. She had dinner on the table for us every night, she made sure my brother and I had our homework done and helped us when we needed it. Whether it was a science project or studying for a spelling test or filling out college applications, my mother was always there when we needed her just like she was always there for her students that she taught.

I didn’t make life easy for either of my parents, but my mom and dad did everything they could to make sure my brother and I always had what we needed and wanted in life. Teaching and law enforcement doesn’t pay what it deserves. My dad worked two jobs when I was growing up, and my mom spent many nights without sleep all so we could live a great life.

That work ethic trickled down to my brother and I. My brother followed in my mothers footsteps, and he has been teaching high school English for about 12 years. My mom inadvertently taught me my love of writing. She always helped me with book reports and term papers, and she would always say little things about my writing to make me believe that I was pretty good at it. As I got older, she continued to tell me how talented I was at writing and convinced me to major in journalism when I left for college. Even though that didn’t work out, I worked for years to get to where I am today and without her, I know I wouldn’t have made it.

She believed in me like no one else did. She knew, even when I was in the lowest points of my life, that I could be anything that I wanted. She pushed me to follow my dreams, and while it took longer than anticipated here I sit writing. Writing was always something I did, whether it was in a journal or wherever and now I get to write for a living. I owe so much of that to my mother.

On Monday, her school held a retirement party for her and I was touched to hear so many of her coworkers tell her how much she meant to them, how she helped them and how much they enjoyed learning from a teacher with that much experience. She may not want me to tell this story, but last year my mom had one of the worst classes in her entire teaching career as far as behavioral issues. She would come home crying many nights. My dad did everything he could to help her make it through that dreadful year. We were all worried that those kids would lead her to a breakdown, but she persevered and did it with a smile on her face. Even on the bad days she walked into that school and gave those kids her all.

So to sum things up, my mom is an absolute treasure to the education community. She dedicated her life to teaching children and helping them become the best version of themselves. It didn’t matter who the child was, their background, social status or race, my mom taught every kid the same. She made sure that no matter how difficult the child may have been, that they got the same education as the child that got straight A’s.

She worked 12 and 16-hour days making sure that each child that came through the doors of her classroom were given the education that they deserved.

Happy retirement mom. You have spent your entire life giving and giving. Now its time for you and dad to relax and enjoy those three grandchildren and each other.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV