Farewell to two beloved teachers

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After a combined 43 years of service to St. Agnes School in Arlington, preschool teacher Kathy Brown and preschool aide Bonnie Beringer are retiring at the end of this school year.

To honor the two women, St. Agnes faculty and staff, parents, and students held a special schoolwide assembly last Friday morning. The assembly began with a blessing by Father Lee Roos, pastor, and a welcome by Principal Kris Carr.

"We're all different people because (Brown and Beringer) have been with us for so long," said Carr. "They've taught us all valuable lessons."

Guest speakers included former St. Agnes student Kyle Forrester, parent Maureen Hodges and Ian Handerhan, a teacher and St. Agnes alumnus. Each speaker talked about his or her experiences with both Brown and Berringer, what they learned from them and what they will miss.

"For as long as I can remember, (Brown and Beringer) helped make this school a wonderful place to grow, play and excel," Forrester said.

After the speeches, students in each grade took turns honoring the two women with poems, songs, drawings, dances, bouquets of flowers and plenty of hugs.

At the end of the assembly, Brown, who has taught preschool at St. Agnes for 25 years, stood up to thank everyone for their great show of love, and called her time at St. Agnes "a wonderful life."

Brown said the highlight of her teaching career has been spending every day with children and learning how to see the world through their eyes. She especially enjoyed learning about the wonders of science and the Faith and watching children grow and develop through play.

"The highlight of my teaching career has always been the children … and the playing," Brown said. "Young children learn everything they need to know through their play. … They learn to work together, to respect each other's ideas, and to increase their understanding within a safe environment."

Beringer has been working at the school as an aide and substitute teacher for 18 years. For the past 11 years, she worked as Brown's preschool aide. She calls Brown a "mentor and very dear friend."

"(Brown) is a master of her trade and has taught me so much about early childhood development. No one knows more about the importance of learning through play, fostering childhood social skills, and how best to equip 4-year-olds with the right tools to eventually become successful elementary, middle- and high school students," Beringer said. "Great teachers are so important in the lives of children, and, simply put, Mrs. Brown is one of the very best."

Beringer said she will miss spending time with the children and witnessing their excitement and wonder at the world.

"They've given me so much, but if I had to choose something specific, it would be a better appreciation for everything around me, each and every day," she said. "My curious young students see the world with such awe and genuine excitement and it's hard for that sense of wonder and limitless possibility not to rub off over the years."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012