By Johnny Jackson
While thousands of high school seniors in Henry County are planning their graduations and preparing for their futures, dozens of their educators are planning new careers for themselves.
Nancy Hooper, a media specialist at Ola Elementary School, is one of about 75 Henry County School System employees retiring this year to pursue other careers and pastimes.
On Friday, students and faculty at Hooper's school held a day-long celebration in honor of the veteran teacher and called it 'Hooray for Hooper Day.'
The school's celebration was first disguised as a tornado drill in which everyone was evacuated to the hallways. There, Hooper was surprised to find students pacing the halls with signs and posters congratulating her on her retirement.
"I didn't know anything about it," said an excited Hooper.
After she officially retires, Hooper plans to work part-time within the school system.
"I'll miss all the people, more than anything," she said. "We've just got a great bunch of students."
She is spending her final week at the school, where she has worked for the past nine years doing library inventory. She still arrives at the school at 6:15 in the morning, before many of her co-workers arrive.
"She's a very conscientious worker," said Daisy Ragan, the school's library paraprofessional. "It's very hard to lose a dear friend. She's wonderful, she's the best there is."
Hooper has taught in Henry County since 1995, but has taught a combined 29 years.
"I've heard a lot of people say you'll know when to retire," Hooper said. "Your body starts telling you. My body started telling me to slow down, and you need to be able to give 100 percent."
At Henry County Middle School, Bruce Towson is prepared for life beyond the schoolhouse walls. He retires on Friday from the school where he has taught physical education for the past 29 years.
On Thursday, his school hosted a dinner in honor of Towson and co-worker, Suzette Walston, who is also retiring.
"I'm just looking to relax and see what the next 30 years have in store," said Towson. "I'm kind of looking forward to the summer. It doesn't seem any different from other years."
Towson plans to teach part-time in his retirement.
"I like the kids and the workplace and will miss them [but] it was time for me to make a change and meet new challenges," added Walston.
A seventh-grade science teacher at Henry County Middle, she has been an educator for the past 34 years in both Henry and Clayton counties. She was named Teacher of the Year in Clayton County and has been at Henry County Middle for the past five years.
The Henry County School System will host its annual Retirees' Reception, honoring retired and retiring employees, at 10 a.m., on June 3 at Union Grove Middle School in McDonough.
Among the school system's honorees are: Loreen Amis, Sara Bealing, Constance Bell, Linda Bishop, Connie Bolkcom, Linda Brannan, Ernestine Brogdon, Sarah Buckley, Jenny Bumpus, Buddy Capps, Jay Cluelow, Janice Cole, James Cook, Kevin Curry, Arline Deacon, Mildred Dixon, Kaye Dodgen, James Dorough, Fran Duncan, Jill Ellington, Gale Fellows, Sherry Foster, Bonnie Gilmore, Trudy Gomer, Kathy Gribben, Mabel Haddle, Janis Hayden, Susan Henderson, Nancy Hooper, Phyllis Hornsby, Shirley Hotch, Christine Hunter, Mary Joyce Johnson, Sharon Johnson, Robert Johnston, Stuart Jordan, William James Lewis, Fred Lusk, Jane Lute, Steven Lynn, Patsy Mauldin, Juanita McCall, Margaret McDonald, Pamela McKinley, Richard Moore, Yvonne Moss, Judith Mullett, Pamela Nelson, Jack Parish, Barbara Powers, Glenda Pruitt, Helen Ray, Rosa Roddie, Karen Sanders, Charlotte Sarnowski, Jan Shepherd, Mary Shepherd, Robert Shepherd, Deidra Smith, Joyce Starnes, Sarah Starr, Rebecca Strickland, Anita Tinsley, Stephanie Tomlinson, Bruce Towson, Mary Ann Tucker, Louise Vanderford, Charlene Vaughn, Annie Ruth Walker, Anne Wallace, Trudy Wallace, Suzette Walston, and Ann Ware.