Last day of school in Anne Arundel involves bittersweet goodbyes

For Anne Arundel County students and teachers, the last day of school Thursday was both exciting and bittersweet — exciting to begin an unusually long summer and bittersweet to say goodbye to friends and colleagues.

"I'm going to miss being able to hang out with my friends," said Jesse "Jelly" Smith, a rising fifth-grader at Germantown Elementary School. But there is a swimming pool in his neighborhood, and he's looking forward to learning how to swim because he "kind of knows, but not a lot."


Brad Ogle's fourth-grade students talked about summer plans over lunch in his classroom. They ranged from long days at the local swimming pool to vacations at Disney World, one student's potential trip to Bosnia, and lots and lots of soccer. Rising fifth-grader Edwin Martinez will join a soccer team this summer. He's excited to play — and eager to get better.

For Ogle, the end of the school year typically means "controlled chaos." In other words, more fun. Ogle's students had a "slime and fidget spinner party" Wednesday, where they made slime and played with their fidget spinners — spinning toys that are said to relieve stress.


Two fourth-graders, Luis Rodriguez and Paolo Assante, highlighted family time as something they looked forward to over the summer. Paolo said he is excited "to play catch with his stepdad," while Luis looks forward to hanging out with his family.

And playing with his fidget spinner, of course.

As Germantown Elementary dismissed, teachers and students flowed from beneath the glass awning covering the Annapolis school's entrance.

"Congratulations! Nice job! Happy summer!" Assistant Principal April Umile said as students filed past her to board buses or leave with parents. Moments before, Umile walked a young, crying student to the bus.

It can be an emotional day for students, she explained, whether it's a young child leaving for their first summer break or a fifth-grader progressing from elementary school and moving on to the next chapter of their life.

"This year is particularly bittersweet. I'm moving on to be the principal of another school," said Umile, who will be at Jacobsville Elementary School in Pasadena next school year.

101 years of experience

When second-grade teacher Gloria Melnick started at High Point Elementary School 46 years ago, the school was in a different building. Pasadena was more rural, and some of her students would bring black snakes and frogs to class to put in an aquarium. Not so much anymore.


Melnick's class theme is butterflies, a theme she's maintained through most of her years. She names each reading group after species of butterflies: zebras, sun lovers, high fliers and tigers, among others. She gives out butterfly stickers and has at least one butterfly stuffed animal toy.

She has adapted to help her second-graders succeed, picking up information — like a butterfly traveling to flowers to collect nectar — along the way, said colleague Melissa Webster, a K-12 reading specialist.

"If it means it's going to help her children succeed, she will change to help them," said Linda Taylor, another colleague and K-12 reading specialist.

Forty-six years later Melnick is moving on from teaching and is grappling with saying goodbye to her students and colleagues.

"I'll miss reading to children and seeing their reactions when I read stories with them, seeing the growth in their handwriting," Melnick said, "and to see that excitement in learning."

In 1962, Gladiola Savage started as a teacher in Baltimore City. Fifty-five years later — the last 21 of which were at High Point Elementary as the assistant principal — she's ready to retire.


She has become a role model for colleagues.

"She's a very classy lady … she's very understanding of people," Webster said. "What she says is what she means."

Though Savage worries about students who will miss the structure and feedback at school, she maintains a positive outlook on "last days."

This one's no different.

"I always think in terms of the last day of school as the end of one path and time to reset or develop the route to the next path," she said.