The staff at Green Pines Elementary
could not keep librarian Theresa Swoboda's retirement parade a secret from her. Coworkers needed to consult with her on logistics ahead of time for the major traffic event that would be taking place on her street Thursday, May 21.
Green Pines Principal Dr. Paul Godwin even filed a parade permit with the city of Wildwood and arranged for a police escort to lead what turned out to be a 35-minute parade past Swoboda's house. The line of cars snaked all the way back to Green Pines about a mile away, with the tail end of the caravan still waiting to leave the school parking lot as the first cars were approaching the destination.
"It's really uplifting," said Swoboda, who has taught at Green Pines for 34 years. "It's been so hard to be away from the kids and the staff. It's nice to have some closure. That's what I'm missing so much: the interactions, the hugs, the high-fives and all that."
Swoboda has worked at the school since it opened and is the last member of its first-year staff to leave. This is why her coworkers refer to her as "the last O.G." – Original Gator.
"This atmosphere shows you what she's meant to the community for 34 years," Godwin said. "She was a classroom teacher then shifted to the library, where she was able to impact every kid and every teacher. She epitomizes what it means to be an educator and a caring person. She captures it all."
Swoboda met her husband, Tom, when both worked at Green Pines. Their three children all went through the school, and two of them are now Rockwood educators as well: Matthew teaches social studies at Wildwood Middle
, and Ellie is a third-grade teacher at Babler Elementary
They all watched from the driveway -- chalked with decorations by Swoboda herself -- Thursday as a seemingly endless stream of cars carrying students, parents, coworkers and other community members filed by to wish her a well-deserved retirement.
"This school has meant the world to me. It seriously has," Swoboda said. "It's my family, my home away from home. Rockwood has been an amazing district to work for. I love how everybody takes care of each other and their service to one another and the community."