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School's out for Lake Wylie first graders, teacher

Before noon Friday - a half-day of school and the last day of the school year for the Clover school district - Linda Walker lined up her first-graders at Crowders Creek Elementary School for dismissal.

She had done this thousands of times in 26 years teaching first- and second-graders the most important things in the whole world: how to add and how to read.

But Friday was it for Walker, as it was for three other Crowders Creek teachers and scores of other teachers in area school districts on the last day of school this past week.

A scene playing out over and over as these people - mainly women, who have given years and decades to children - watch their work leave for the last time.

Not just the end of a year, but the end of a career - after giving a whole life to other people's kids so that each kid might soar.

These people who teach for a lifetime don't deserve a paper award, matted and framed. It seems not enough for all they have done for so many for so long, while paid so little.

Linda Walker responded Friday as a 62-year-old teacher always does: She marched kids into line toward the rest of their lives, like Eisenhower sending troops to the beaches of Normandy.

"Grab your book bags, it is time," was her call-out.

A pair of parent volunteers in this year's first-grade class, Denise DiFrango and Jeannie Purvis, said this of Linda Walker - "Unbelievable. Incredible."

Linda Walker never had children of her own. Yet every child in 26 years - hundreds of children - was one of what Walker says are "my kids."

A little girl in the line - who stated for the record that her name was "Kayia Marie, and I am 7 years old" - called her teacher "awesome."

A boy named Zach Baskin, without a front tooth, said, "My teacher is the best."

Linda Walker had sent so many hundreds of kids into the world, armed with joy and knowledge, and this was her last mission. The kids knew it.

The kids were sent out into the hall, where all the classes were lining up to leave. In the line for Libby Reese's class, a boy named Garner Boepple, age 6, just stood there and cried and cried.

He loves his teacher, he said.

On her way to her own class of kids, Linda Walker took a moment to put her arm around little Garner and say that his teacher will always love him, too - and it is OK to cry when you love somebody.

Out at the school's back entrance, where the buses pull up, the teachers had their kids lined up. Principal Millicent Dickey tried to keep up with the hugs that each kid tried to give her.

Linda Walker, teacher for about two more minutes, stood with her students.

A kid named Ethan Robinson, 7, remembered that he left something in the classroom. Linda Walker, still a teacher, did not fret or panic or yell. She put her arm around Ethan and walked him back to the room, where he grabbed what he needed.

She walked back with Ethan, her arm still around his tiny shoulders.

Ethan Robinson looked up and said, "She is nice, she is loving, and she is kind," about his teacher - who then walked Ethan off to his school bus and the rest of his life.

Walker then rushed to one last bus and left a card of thanks with a tiny girl named Margaret, to give to her mom for being such a help this year.

The buses pulled away. Teachers waved at the students they had nurtured and taught and loved. Linda Walker embraced Millicent Dickey.

Walker turned one last time, and what she saw was a tiny face through the back window of a school bus, with tears running down his face on the other side of the window.

Walker waved one last time at a child whose life she changed.

Then, Linda Walker walked away, as quickly as she could. She was crying, too.