Patricia Vogel

Patricia Vogel poses for a photo at Westowne Elementary School where she has been principal for 11 years. The Relay resident, who once taught at Arbutus Elementary School and Ascension School will be retiring at the end of the school year. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / May 29, 2013)

After 11 years at Westowne Elementary School, Principal Patricia Vogel will retire at the end of this school year.

Vogel has been a teacher and administrator for 25 years, with previous experience at Arbutus Elementary School and Ascension Catholic School.

As much as she loves teaching, she said it is time to start a new era of her life.

"That was not an easy choice, but it was a choice," Vogel said.

"It's basically just to have the time to spend with my grandchildren and spend some quality time with my husband, who's been retired for 11 years already," she said.

There is also the matter of preparing to move from her home in Relay to a condominium near the Howard County-Baltimore County border.

She has four grandchildren. The 11-year-old will start at Catonsville Middle in the fall and the 5-year-old is in kindergarten at Westchester Elementary. There are also two pre-schoolers, ages 3 and 4, who are both in the early learning program at Glen Mar United Methodist Church in Ellicott City.

That all four will be starting new stages of their education was a huge part of her motivation to retire.

"I enjoy the children so much at our school and I see how important (a role) grandparents play in their lives," Vogel said. "And I want to be able to do the same thing for my grandchildren.

"To be able to go to their school to volunteer, to take them on a field trip, and I think that would be really neat for me to experience," she said. "I've been on the other end of it, watching grandparents go out the door with their kids so I think it would be neat to be able to do that as well."

Vogel said she will definitely miss Westowne, or "the little gem on Harlem Lane" as she calls it.

"It's just been a wonderful experience," she said of her years as principal there. "The kids here make your day.

"They'll say something. They'll do something. They'll write you a note. It's remarkable," she said.

Last week, Westowne parents staged walkouts where they signed their students out early due to exceedingly high temperatures in the school which does not have air conditioning. Through it all, Vogel remained steadfast.

She credits much of the school's success stems to its faculty, who nurture a diverse student body while coping in the early fall and spring without air conditioning to consistently produce strong test scores and successful students.

"The teachers that work with these students are just so patient," Vogel said. "They have such an energy and I think that's great."

"Our school is like a little globe because we have such a diverse population," she said, referring to the diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds of the school's student body as well as the early learning special education programs the school hosts.

She said she plans to remain active in her retirement and hopes to volunteer at her grandkids' schools. She also is considering going on more adventures, such as the zip-line trip she took with her daughters and oldest granddaughter on Mother's Day of this year.

"Beyond that, doing some quality reading, being able to travel a little bit more, not just restricted to the summer," Vogel said.

"I don't think I'll rest. Just sitting back in a lawn chair, that doesn't sound like me," she said.