Elementary teacher says she will retire
The absence of Debbie Stone around the classrooms and halls of Carriage Crest Elementary School will likely be felt next year.
The longtime Kent School District kindergarten teacher, who has taught at Carriage Crest for the last 18 years, will retire come summertime with a total of 27 years in education under her belt. There are some who are already mourning the loss.
“She’s just a fabulous teacher who is warm and caring, but also provides a structured environment for the kids,” said Bernadette Salgado, whose daughter, Marley, is currently one of Stone’s kindergartners. “The times that I’ve been (in her class) the kids are just captivated, and they are really able to flourish because of her teaching methods.”
Salgado also said her fourth-grade son, Michael, a former Stone student, greatly benefited from the teacher’s techniques. Her appreciation for the teacher was so strong that she recently wrote a letter of praise to the Carriage Crest principal expressing her thanks.
“We just wanted to express to the principal how great she was,” Salgado said. “Michael is doing so well in school now, and I really think it’s because of Mrs. Stone. Hopefully the children will have that good of an experience the rest of their education.”
Black Diamond resident Stone, 55, attended Washington State University to start her education career, graduating in 1974. She later received a master’s degree in teaching from Lewis & Clark University.
She took her first job teaching sixth-graders in 1975 at a school in Vancouver, working there until her two daughters were born, one after the other.
“I was a parent helping with my first daughter when she was in kindergarten, and the teacher of that class said, ‘You need to get back into teaching soon, and I want you to teach kindergarten,’” Stone said. “I trusted her, and that was the great beginning of teaching kindergarten. It was a great move for me.”
The family moved north, and Stone took her first kindergarten job at Meridian Elementary School in Kent. She also would go on to teach at Ridgewood Elementary School and later Carriage Crest, in their respective first years of opening. She would make Carriage Crest her home.
“It is a great school,” Stone said. “The parents are so supportive, and the children are great. I’ve had 410 kindergartners here now. It’s just been a real joy to work with those children, and we’ve had a great staff this whole time.”
Stone said some of her most valuable memories over the years have been the things her students say. She has many of the memorable quotes written down.
“Every now and then they will say something that is just so precious and just so innocent,” she said. “It’s just so funny the way they say it that you write it down. So it’s fun to look back over the years on some of those.”
And kindergarten is definitely the best job for her. She says it’s exciting to be a part of a child’s first school experience and see each of them develop through the year.
“I’m the first one to teach these children,” Stone said. “I get to teach them how to do school and kind of shape them and help them to have a love of learning which will hopefully take them through the rest of their school career.”
Her efforts haven’t gone without reward. In addition to the joy of watching her kindergartners blossom each year, she recently received the Carriage Crest Outstanding Educator Award, presented by the Carriage Crest Parent Teacher Student Association. Her greatest rewards, though, are often standing outside her door after class.
“Quite often I have kids waiting outside of my door at the end of the day who just want a hug or want to say hi, and that’s such a thrill,” Stone said. “It makes me feel like in some way I’ve impacted their life, and I feel very rewarded.”
The teacher said she’ll be sad to say goodbye to her longtime career and all the people at Carriage Crest, but she’s ready to move on to the next phase of her life. Her daughters, Lisa Kelley and Wendy Schaafsma, recently had babies, and she’s ready to be a grandparent with her husband, Erie. She also likes to ski, play golf and travel, so she’s looking forward to that.
But the teaching torch has been passed. Both her daughters are educators, too. They’re on maternity leave now, but Kelly worked as youth director at Maple Valley Presbyterian Church and Schaafsma taught at Sunrise Elementary School.
“I just love that both of them are also working with youth,” Stone said. “Working with our future is just so important, and I feel such pride that my daughters are doing that.”
Contact Daniel Mooney at 253-437-6012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.