Ev Abernethy didn't show the sadness she felt Monday during her last day at Longfellow Elementary School.
She smiled during the Pasco school's closing assembly as students went up to receive awards and candy from teachers, sometimes getting one of any number of unique applause styles from their classmates, such as the shrill scream of the "spider" or the loud rhythmic clap of the "alligator."
But Abernethy, the school's retiring reading specialist, said it was a difficult day nonetheless.
"There were a few tears this morning," she said.
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Abernethy has worked for the Pasco School District for 30 years, more than half of those at Longfellow. She has had classrooms of first-graders all the way up to sixth-graders. She's been a writing specialist and worked with non-English speakers.
Despite all her years working with students, she said she still remembers each and how they affected her, and the same goes for the students themselves.
"When I was ready to give up, Mrs. Abernethy told me to never give up if I wanted to succeed in life," wrote fifth-grader Jennyfer Lopez in a letter to Abernethy.
Abernethy started as a long-term substitute teacher at McGee Elementary School in 1982 before becoming a full-time teacher. She had stints at Emerson and Captain Gray elementary schools before landing at Longfellow.
School and district administrators praised her for innovations over the years, such as setting up parent training sessions that resulted in a jump in test scores.
Longfellow Principal Diana Cissne said Abernethy was a mentor to the school's teachers and held several leadership roles over the years.
She received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award in 1998 and a Tri-City Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Education earlier this year.
However, Abernethy always has stayed connected to the children she shared a classroom with.
"Ev always seeks guidance from the experts: her students," said a district-issued retrospective on Abernethy.
As a reading specialist, Abernethy said she worked with fewer than two dozen students at a time, from first-graders to fifth-graders. Her goal was to get students to read at their grade level or better.
"She's awesome," said first-grader Raphael Keil, 7. "She helped me pass my K (level) test in reading."
Jennyfer Lopez, 11, said she'd worked with Abernethy since the first grade and was going into the sixth grade with a seventh-grade reading level because of her teacher.
"She teaches us in a special way so we understand," Jennyfer told the Herald.
Her influence is felt even outside the classroom. While with her husband at a hospital receiving treatment recently, she said her husband's nurse was being especially accommodating and attentive.
"She said, 'You don't remember me,'" Abernethy recalled. "She said she was my student in the first grade."
Abernethy's eyes teared up a little when she was recognized for her retirement during Friday's assembly and given some flowers by Cissne. But the school sent her off properly, with the four claps and the "Huhhhh!" of the "caveman" applause.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org