Cindy Stitz is a self-described "book-a-saurus." Her classroom at Clarksville Elementary School is overflowing with books, crammed into a bookshelf, tucked into nooks and crannies and lining the shelves underneath her windows.
Stitz is in the process of packing up those books, however. The 54-year-old first-grade teacher from Ellicott City is retiring after 30 years in the Howard County Public School System, 25 of them at Clarksville.
"It's bittersweet," she said. "This is my home away from home. I've been really fortunate to have taught in such a nice school."
Stitz, however, isn't leaving Clarksville entirely. She will return to substitute because, "I just can't give up on my kids. I have to see them.
"I'm going to miss seeing them every day, though," Stitz said. "It's important for me to stay in the loop here. I've had a lot of friends who started teaching with me who have become assistant principals and principals, but I just always wanted to be with the kids."
As a first-grade teacher, Stitz is responsible for her students learning all of their subjects, but she's always found a way to incorporate fun reading into every lesson. Books about penguins were good for science, as were books on space.
"If you can get the kids interested in what they're learning, they get excited and they want to read about it," she said. "They want to learn even more."
Stitz has passed on her love of reading to so many students that parents come up to her years later and tell her the child still has his or her nose in a book.
"They tell me it's because I'm so enthusiastic about it, that their kids pick up on it," Stitz said.
In addition to substitute teaching, Stitz said she's looking for places where she can be helpful in other ways. She hopes to spend her retirement volunteering several days a week at the Arc of Baltimore City, which runs a pre-school for children who are homeless.
"It's time for me to give back," she said. "I want to help children who don't have all the things children in this area are fortunate to have."
Stitz will also have more time to read for herself — a hobby mostly explored during the summer.
"It'll be nice to have some time to read more," she said. "I'll read on the beach, and go a little further out of my comfort zone, find some new authors."