HOLDEN, Maine — Kindergarten teacher Trudy Walo got a few hundred hugs on Thursday.
She also got pink flowers, blooming plants, books, handmade cards and a scrapbook of pictures collected over the last two decades when she taught 5- and 6-year-olds their ABCs and 1-2-3’s.
“I can’t say enough about her,” Holden School Principal Dave Anderson said just before a school assembly held in honor of the much-loved teacher.
Walo, who has taught kindergarten for 34 years, has spent the last 22 years at Holden School.
“Her classroom is magical,” Anderson said. “She’s kind, gentle and caring and she’s very patient and understanding.”
When Walo entered the school’s gym Thursday morning, students, teachers and parents rose and gave her a standing ovation. The longtime teacher was overcome with emotion and needed the tissues that her husband, John Walo, carried with him.
The students, teachers and parents also wept as they told stories of Walo and thanked her for her years of dedicated and caring work.
The tears started when the school’s chorus sang “Good” from the musical “Wicked,” which included the words, “I know who I am today, because I knew you.”
Many of today’s students and some who now attend Holbrook Middle School came to the front of the elementary school gathering to say they loved and would miss Walo, who will retire at the end of the school year.
“You are a beautiful, fun, kind, caring teacher who never can be replaced in our school or our hearts,” said one student.
“We love you, Mrs. Walo,” said another.
Many of her students and former students thanked her for her many projects, which included making pancakes and applesauce and hatching chickens, and each got a hug afterward.
“They love the chicks,” school secretary Rosa Thompson said. “It’s amazing how many kids remember that experience.”
Just before the group headed outside for a tree dedication in Walo’s honor, longtime teacher Georgette Burrill read from the children’s book “The Giving Tree,” purchased by donations collected from parents and staff and signed by the students.
“I just want to say that this means everything to me,” Walo said to the crowd, pausing at times to compose herself. “It’s wonderful.”