BORDENTOWN – It was the day before the 1976-77 school year began that Sally Craig was hired by the Bordentown Regional School District as a kindergarten teacher at Peter Muschal Elementary School.
It was a dream come true for the lifelong Bordentown resident and Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) graduate.
Since Craig was in kindergarten at Peter Muschal Elementary School, she always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher.
Fast forward 44 years later, Craig has been a mainstay at the elementary school, helping shape young minds as both a kindergarten teacher and a basic skills math teacher.
She has taught three generations of family members and has made a lasting impact on thousands of students since the day they stepped into her classroom.
In the Bordentown community, Craig is considered an icon, her friend and fellow teacher Judy Pesce would say.
After experiencing all of the fond memories during her “wonderful” teaching career, the five-year-old girl who once had the dream of being a teacher is now saying goodbye to the school she has called home for the last 44 years.
Craig has announced that she will retire from teaching when the school year ends on June 19. Keeping to her word, Craig previously said she would not retire until her kindergarten class of 2008 graduated from high school. That was the last kindergarten class she taught.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” Craig said. “All the memories I have had from teaching are special. I’ve worked with a lot of great people. I enjoyed my time teaching at Peter Muschal Elementary School.”
Once a student enters Craig’s classroom, their experience with her doesn’t end there. Craig keeps in contact with her students and follows their accomplishments throughout their entire academic career in the Bordentown Regional School District.
She keeps all the press clippings from each student’s academic, athletic and community service accomplishments.
It doesn’t stop there as Craig makes sure to keep all the pictures, gift cards and hand written notes her students have given her when she was their teacher.
Everything is like a time capsule, Craig said. Each memento has a special meaning for the teacher who shares this with her students when they graduate high school.
Craig attends each Bordentown Regional High School graduation ceremony every year. She sits in the front row and watches her former students receive their diplomas.
After the ceremony, Craig greets her former students and presents them with a collage filled with all of the things they gave her during their time in kindergarten and the accomplishments they have made since during their academic careers.
“I got into teaching because of the children,” Craig stated. “You look through their eyes and you can see the world. It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of their life at such a young age and see them grow up and achieve things.”
Craig also writes a letter in the yearbook each year to congratulate her former students on graduating high school and ends each letter with the same quote.
“Take time to smell the roses, savor the sunsets and see the beauty in each new day as my students continue to teach me daily.”
This year’s graduation is still up in the air because of the coronavirus pandemic, Craig said.
The pandemic also unfortunately pushed back Craig’s retirement dinner that would have been held at the Old York Country Club in June.
Because of Craig not being able to celebrate her retirement like she thought she would, friends and colleagues have been working hard to give the beloved teacher a proper sendoff.
Pesce, along with Midge Rizzo and Anna Swiniuchowski, are organizing a tribute to Craig that asks all her students, co-workers, community members, friends, neighbors and family to write a note of thanks or to compose a fond memory about their most special teacher.
The trio will compose all items into a scrapbook and a retirement video that Craig will receive.
A drive-by parade in Craig’s honor is also being discussed.
Craig is very humbled by the retirement sendoff her peers are doing for her.
The beloved teacher has already had many former students respond to the initiative and send in messages of how she has impacted their lives.
“It’s very nice,” Craig said. “It’s been great to make such a difference on a child at five years old and have it stick with them throughout their life.”
All messages are due by May 31, according to Pesce. They can be dropped off or mailed to Judy Pesce, 601 Farnsworth Ave., Bordentown 08505; Midge Rizzo, 10 Susannah Dr., Chesterfield 08515; or Anna Swiniuchowski, 61 Edgewood Road E., Bordentown 08505.
Messages can also be sent via email to Retire4Craig@gmail.com.
The last few months of Craig’s teaching career have been nothing like she has seen before with having to conduct lessons with students via Zoom or FaceTime because of COVID-19.
When Craig started her career, computers and the internet weren’t even available for teachers. As things evolved during her teaching career, Craig adapted to different teaching concepts.
Her motto though never changed. She said she always wanted to make teaching fun. She wanted to make it fun for her students to learn.
That’s what she did everyday the last 44 years and just like the teacher who helped her want to be a kindergarten teacher when she was in kindergarten, Craig has helped her students find their calling and has made a special impact on their lives.
“Throughout my career, it has been my hope that the students I taught have created wonderful memories to help them through difficult times in their lives,” Craig said. “My favorite time of all is when I get the pleasure of sitting and watching former students become teachers and create memories with their students.”