Their first teacher

The absence of Debbie Stone at Carriage Crest Elementary School will likely be felt next year.

The absence of Debbie Stone at Carriage Crest Elementary School will likely be felt next year.

The longtime Kent School District kindergarten teacher, who has taught at Carriage Crest for the last 18 years, will retire come summertime with a total of 27 years in education under her belt. There are some who are already mourning the loss.

“She’s just a fabulous teacher who is warm and caring, but also provides a structured environment for the kids,” said Bernadette Salgado, whose daughter, Marley, is one of Stone’s kindergartners this year. “The times that I’ve been in her class, the kids are just captivated, and they are really able to flourish because of her teaching methods.”

Salgado – who said her fourth-grade son, Michael, a former Stone student, greatly benefitted from the teacher’s techniques – recently wrote a letter of praise to the Carriage Crest principal, expressing her thanks for Stone.

“Michael is doing so well in school now, and I really think it’s because of Mrs. Stone,” Salgado said.

Black Diamond resident Stone, 55, attended Washington State University to start her education career, graduating in 1974. She took her first job teaching sixth-graders in 1975 in Vancouver, Wash., working there until her two daughters were born. Later, when they began school, “I was a parent helping with my first daughter when she was in kindergarten, and the teacher of that class said, ‘You need to get back into teaching soon, and I want you to teach kindergarten,’” Stone said. “That was the beginning of teaching kindergarten. It was a great move for me.”

The family moved north, and Stone took her first kindergarten job at Meridian Elementary School in Kent. She also would go on to teach at Ridgewood Elementary School. At Carriage Crest, “I’ve had 410 kindergartners. It’s just been a real joy to work with those children,” she said.

Some of her most valuable memories are things her students say. She has many of the memorable quotes written down.

“Every now and then they will say something that is just so precious and just so innocent,” she said. “So it’s fun to look back over the years on some of those.”

She said it’s exciting to be “the first one to teach these children. I get to teach them how to do school and kind of shape them and help them to have a love of learning which will hopefully take them through the rest of their school career.”

Her greatest rewards, she said, are often “kids waiting at the end of the day who just want a hug or want to say hi, and that’s such a thrill,” Stone said. “It makes me feel like in some way I’ve impacted their life, and I feel very rewarded.”

Her daughters, Lisa Kelly and Wendy Schaafsma, recently had babies, and she’s ready to be a grandparent with her husband, Erie. She also likes to ski, play golf and travel.

The teaching torch has been passed. Both her daughters are educators. Kelly worked as youth director at Maple Valley Presbyterian Church and Schaafsma taught at Sunrise Elementary School.

“Working with our future is just so important, and I feel such pride that my daughters are doing that,” Stone said.