TOWNSEND -- The end of school is approaching and for one seventh-grade science teacher, that day will be bittersweet.
"This is a tough one for me. I have never in my life counted days," said Caryl Adamowich, who is retiring at the end of the school year after teaching in the North Middlesex Regional School District for 43 years. The 64-year-old woman has gone to school every year since she was five.
Over the course of her career she taught in all three member towns, Townsend, Pepperell and Ashby and in four different schools. Whenever she was ready for a move, there was a new place for her to teach. "That's one of the advantages of a school system this size," she said.
Her final classroom at Hawthorne Brook Middle School has all the things you would expect to see in a science classroom designed to get kids involved. Lab tables occupy the room's center, eye-catching objects and scientific equipment line the walls.
Adamowich began teaching grades five through eight when she was barely 21. Those grades are her favorite age. "They need people who like them," said the teacher some may remember as Mrs. LaPorte.
The students are a challenge at that age, but "you can see these lights come on when things come together," she said.
Many changes have occurred in the district since she came on board. When she taught at Varnum Brook in Pepperell, the system was so overcrowded the school ran double sessions. "We were putting fourth-graders on the bus with flashlights," she said.
At Pepperell's Peter Fitzpatrick School, before the new middle school opened, she taught a math class with 40 kids in the cafeteria. In her final year of teaching, the class sizes ranged between 22 and 24 students.
One of the biggest positive changes she has seen in her years in the classroom is the use of technology. Now, instead of simply reading about something, students can actually see new things via streaming videos.
Other challenges have become more prevalent. Recently, she has seen more students dealing with problems outside the classroom. "Oh my gosh, so many more families are dealing with stress," she said.
As in the past, parents still want the best for their kids but are more likely to expect the school to make it happen without much parental involvement. "Back in the day you were really in tandem," Adamowich said.
A good teacher does more than follow the curriculum. Kids need a good environment to be able to learn. "For some kids this is their safe space," she said.
A teacher can not be the be all and end all, but can help a child maximize his or her potential, she said.
Part of the role of an older teacher is mentoring new teachers. "It's really complex. It's a very complex profession," Adamowich said. Every teacher will have a unique style, but can learn a lot from their more experienced peers.
Ultimately, for Adamowich, it's all about the kids. She did some work as an administrator, but that wasn't her thing. "I need to be in a classroom with kids doing things," she said.
"I have so many memories of so many awesome kids," she said. Not only has she taught her own two children, she has taught the children and grandchildren of her students.
If she had one wish that could be filled, she would like to know what each of her former students is doing now.