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ABCs of great teaching

They are known as the “alphabet” teachers.

“Ms. G,” Patricia Gulledge, presides in Room 201 at Davis Elementary School for Technology; “Mrs. P,” Arleen Pietrowitz, is next door in 202.

They share a birthday month, a friendship that spans more than three decades, 76 years of combined teaching experience, and the occasional tendency to finish each other’s sentences.

They are everybody’s fifth-grade teacher: all heart and soul, warm and personable, able to tamp down classroom shenanigans in a soft, but firm, voice.

The kind of teacher you might approach years later to ask, “Do you remember me?”

Of course, they will.

So “Ms. G,” who has spent 41 years here, and “Mrs. P,” who is wrapping up 31 years at the Cayce school, are, finally, retiring.They technically did so five years ago — on the same day — and returned under the state’s Teacher and Employee Retention program.

“They are part of the brick and mortar of this community,” said Davis principal Jesse Washington III. “They do more than just teach. They are giving from the heart.”

Except for one year of teaching in Richland County, Gulledge has spent her entire career at Davis. On Grandparents Day, there have been a few elders who reminded her they had once been in her classroom.

Pietrowitz moved with her husband to South Carolina from New Jersey in the 1970s and joined the Davis faculty full-time in 1978.

Her three children, now grown and with children of their own, went through Davis and — no surprise — had “Ms. G” as their fifth-grade teacher.

The school children supplied the alphabet monikers after Pietrowitz’s arrival, when the youngsters kept stumbling over her Polish surname.

For Gulledge and Pietrowitz, the possibility of retirement travel, late-morning snoozes — both confess to an aversion to early mornings — and shared dinners beckons them. Gulledge will have more time to baby her 4-pound Chihuahua, Sassee.

But for now the pair are concentrating on what they know best: teaching.

They have reviewed grammar rules, math and social studies to prepare their students for standardized state PASS testing taking place this week.

But there have been plenty of moments to simply encourage the kids to set goals and ponder the possibilities of a glorious future.

Davis is far from a wealthy school — about 73 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch — and Gulledge and Pietrowitz are aware that some families are going through rough economic times.

When the academics go down a bit,” Pietrowitz said ... “we know something has changed,” Gulledge finished the sentence.

They are such familiar figures in the Cayce community, parents welcome their phone calls and insights into their children.

“That school was at the center of their thoughts,” said former Davis principal Jim Hinton, now an assistant superintendent. “To give their career to one school, one community, that just says their heart and minds have been there with that little school.”

Gulledge, who is 62, acknowledged she “waffled a little” in November as she contemplated shutting the door to Room 201 for the final time. “The children really keep you young,” she said.

“I know I’m going to miss the children,” Pietrowitz, 66, said. “This has been our lives for so long; it’s really like closing a book and beginning another one.”

Reach Click at (803) 771-8386.

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