After a parade of students and decades of halftime shows, field days and lesson plans, a number of veteran teachers are leaving area classrooms soon.
Many decided to retire to help save co-workers' jobs -- some receiving bonus money for announcing their intentions early. For others, it is simply time to step away as they look forward to hobbies, grandchildren and time with family.
Still, it's a bittersweet decision.
"I will miss watching their eyes light up when they get something for the first time," said Ron Behrends, retiring after 33 years as Carroll schools band director.
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For National Teacher Day, three longtime area educators reflect on their careers.
Merlene Russell didn't have a classroom or a gym when she started teaching physical education in 1970 in Fort Worth.
She had her students run relays outside or made up games to play on the school's porch -- or wherever she could find room -- if the weather was bad.
Russell remembers that Fort Worth was a pilot district for elementary PE classes for the state at the time, and she was hired to help start the program at Waverly Park Elementary.
"Field day was really a big day in those days because parents took the entire day off to come and watch and cheer," she said.
Russell, who grew up in Fort Worth, had intended to be a pediatrician. But after getting married while in college, she decided to try teaching. She fell in love with education while keeping a focus on children's health.
"I've never regretted it," said Russell, 65, who has spent most of her career at Atwood McDonald and South Hi Mount elementary schools. "PE keeps children active so their minds can function."
Russell is the kind of teacher who never stops learning, said Georgi Roberts, Fort Worth's director of health and physical education. Two years ago, for example, Russell learned Mexican ballet folklorico dances to integrate some of her students' culture into lessons.
"She has never lost her passion for learning," Roberts said.
Russell said her retirement was jump-started by the district's financial woes. Russell saw younger teachers worried for their jobs or that they would be transferred as the district braces for millions in state budget cuts.
"I just decided to give my position up for those teachers who really deserve to be there," Russell said. "These students really deserve the best. It's hard on me. I'll miss the smiles on the students' faces when they accomplish a task. But right now, my primary-care doctor that I'm under was one time my student, and my assistant was a student of mine. So that tells me I had to have done something right."
In 1978, armed with a new degree from University of Texas at Austin, Behrends looked around for a job and settled on Southlake. Three decades later, he is still the Carroll school district's band director.
Carroll's music program was small when he started; only about 38 students were in the marching band. By his second year, the Dragon Band had swelled to 55 students, and the group won the Class 1A championship at the first statewide marching band contest. In 1981, competing in Class 2A, the band won a second state championship.
Today, the school district is in the largest division, Class 5A, and more than 1,000 students take part in the marching, concert and jazz bands.
Behrends, who was drum major of his high school band in Fredericksburg, said he expects to spend more time with his two grandchildren and increase his involvement at church.
Behrends said he fashioned his program to help students learn not only music skills but also leadership and teamwork.
"The main thing is when they leave Carroll, I always want them to love music and keep playing it and not be burned out," he said.
That passion for music has been contagious, said Brian Clancy, a tenor saxophone player and 2007 Carroll graduate.
"There was no one who was more enthusiastic about the band program," said Clancy, 22, who is studying jazz at the University of North Texas. "When morale would drop or we would lose a competition, he was always looking forward and looking to the next season."
For Mother's Day, Elizabeth McSween asked her daughter to give her a scrapbook.
After 35 years of teaching English, she hopes to have time to organize a drawer full of notes and poems from students.
McSween teaches Advanced Placement English at Ryan High School in Denton and is sponsor of Seeking the Muse, the campus literary magazine.
McSween, 63, took some time off from teaching to earn master's and doctoral degrees in English. Back on campus, she met her husband, Roger McSween, a co-worker at Ryan High who teaches industrial technology.
She is looking forward to catching up on reading in retirement.
"A lot of time is spent grading papers and essays. Ask any English teacher. We don't always find time to read," she said. "I'm going to turn 64, and I just thought this was the time to do it. It was a very big decision."
Staff writer Shirley Jinkins contributed to this report.