'The children kept me going'

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 05:48 PM

In 1975, “Wheel of Fortune” debuted on NBC. A gallon of gasoline could be purchased for 57 cents, and a new home less than $50,000. Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft.

It also was the year Sue Elder, a 21-year-old just a month out of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, walked into Montlieu Elementary and began a career with Guilford County Schools that spanned four decades.

Elder retired earlier this year from her post as librarian at Johnson Street Global Studies, where she spent more than two dozen years helping children discover a love of books following her time teaching at Montlieu.

She was among 310 Guilford County Schools employees recognized Wednesday during the school system’s annual retirement reception at First Presbyterian Church on N. Elm Street in Greensboro. Together, the employees gave 7,114 years of service, officials said.

Although Elder is hanging up her hat, she takes with her the relationships built over the years with students, parents and the community.

“It seems everywhere I go, I taught them or their parents,” she said. “I will run into former students now, and they will tell me they remember when I put a book in their hands.”

Elder, now 61, said she always wanted to be an educator. She grew up in a family of teachers. It’s what she knew.

“Over time, you develop a lot of compassion,” she said. “You see that you have students with great needs, and you’re able to fulfill some of those needs. As a person, in general, you develop more understanding and patience.”

The field has changed over the years, Elder said. “The massive use of technology for instruction, that’s been the biggest thing.”

What has remained the same, though, is the vibrancy that surrounds children, she said. “There’s always a surprise around the corner.”

That’s something Winston Wellington, who just retired after nine years as a custodian at Florence Elementary, knows well.

“The children alone kept me going,” he said.

At age 26, Wellington moved from Jamaica to High Point to take a job as a builder at Monarch Furniture Co. He later began his own janitorial service but wasn’t getting enough work, leading him to take the job nine years ago at Florence, where he found his calling.

“I got there, stripped the floors down, cleaned the windows,” Wellington said. “I loved the children. I miss them a lot.”

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