WARNER ROBINS — After teaching for 30 years, retiring Russell Elementary School teacher Julie Ferguson marked her final, last day of school Wednesday.
To mark the occasion, several parents decided to honor Ferguson, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, during a class end-of-the-year celebration with flowers, balloons and a memory book with letters and photos from each of the students in her class.
Stephanie Morgan, who helped plan the celebration, said her daughter, Nayahna Gordon, enjoyed having Ferguson as a teacher this year, especially listening to the teacher’s personal stories that supplemented academic lessons.
“Ms. Ferguson is awesome. She not only taught class, she taught them life through her years of wisdom,” Morgan said.
Principal Keith Lauritsen told the students to yell “surprise” when Ferguson arrived as students walked into her classroom after watching a school play in the afternoon.
Ferguson has been a positive influence on the school through the years and is dedicated to her students, Lauritsen said.
“She’s a great teacher, encourager, almost like a coach,” he said. “She’s tireless. She works so hard ... while she works with the kids.”
The students scrambled excitedly around the room before taking their seats. After welcoming a surprised Ferguson, many of the students stood up to hug her.
Ferguson said she was “stunned” at the recognition she received from the students and parents.
“I feel greatly, greatly honored. I’m undeserving. (They’ll) stay in my heart forever. They’ve been good kids,” Ferguson said.
As Ferguson received praise for her time at Russell, she turned the compliments back to her students, saying she would rather have them all pass the CRCT than receive $1 million.
“If I could do any other job, I wouldn’t trade it for any (of you) kids. ... It’s been one wild, fun adventure. I’d do it again,” she said.
In retirement, Ferguson plans to spend more time with her 1-year-old grandson and 91-year-old father, as well as volunteer her time as a math tutor at Russell and with Meals on Wheels.
“I wanted to help kids that don’t like to learn see the joy of learning,” she said of her motivation to become a teacher.
Based on accounts from students across multiple generations, she has succeeded.
Some parents, like Amy Anderson, were once students in Ferguson’s class themselves.
Anderson, who was a sixth-grader in the late 1970s, remembers a teacher who was quick to praise the accomplishments of her students, including her own.
“I don’t see anything different,” Anderson said. “She’s still interested in the well-being of her students. She’s kind. My daughter adores her.”
“Everyone says how nice she is. I got very lucky,” said Anderson’s daughter, Madison, who was also in Ferguson’s class this year.
Marcia Armstrong, another fourth-grade teacher at Russell, said her son, Max, was in Ferguson’s class. Armstrong said she has seen positive changes in Max this year academically and behaviorally, as well as seen him become more enthusiastic about school.
“She’s a great friend and co-worker. We’re really going to miss her,” Armstrong said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.