During her decades of teaching preschool, Debe Stagmer kept one main point in mind.
"Don't forget you were a child," said Stagmer, 61, of Freeland, Md. "Remember what it was like when you were 5, when you were a little kid. Kids take things very literally, and their feelings are hurt very easily."
Thus teaching "these precious little people" has been a huge responsibility and honor, Stagmer said.
She is retiring after 23 years of teaching 4- and 5-year-old children at Christ Lutheran Church Pre-School at 105 S. Main St. in Shrewsbury Borough.
A retirement celebration will be held for her from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Sweeney Park on Playground Avenue in the borough.
Becky Stevenson, the preschool's director, said she hopes Stagmer's former preschool students will attend the event. They can bring photos of
themselves when they were in Stagmer's class, Stevenson said.
She said Stagmer officially retires May 24, preschool graduation day.
She said that years before she became the director, her three children -- the oldest child is now 13 -- were all taught by Stagmer.
"When I first came up from Maryland and needed a preschool, (people) said, 'Go to Christ Lutheran and you'll want Miss Debe.' That was a good bit of advice," Stevenson said.
'On their level': Stevenson described Stagmer as a unique teacher who is fun, creative and hard-working. Stagmer showed a high level of respect for the children, Stevenson said.
"She would get down on their level and look at them in their eyes," Stevenson said. "They knew she was listening to them."
Stagmer said she started her preschool teaching career 42 years ago. Her first job was at the Salvation Army day care center in Annapolis, Md. She came to Christ Lutheran in 1989. Stagmer said has she served about 36 children per year.
She said she sees her former students just about everywhere, including department and grocery stores and restaurants. They greet her with a hug, she added.
"I forget their names sometimes, but I never forget their faces," Stagmer said. "It's like I still see this 5-year-old (student) in that person. I had the luxury of seeing these kids grow up."
A special day: The retiring preschool teacher said she's glad the celebration for her will be held on April 22, which is also Earth Day, a day that raises awareness on environmental issues.
"I'm a child of the '60s, and I went to Woodstock," Stagmer said. "I wear tie-dyes."
She said her husband, Charlie, also is retiring as a railroad engineer with CSX Transportation Corp. in Baltimore. They plan to travel to music festivals, antique shops, flea markets and yard sales. She said she plans to continue her story-telling activities at libraries and children's events.
"I'm going to miss my job immensely," she said. "They're going to have me on the speed dial for substituting. I want to be there when they need me."
-- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at 505-5438 or email@example.com.
Christ Lutheran Church Pre-School will hold a retirement celebration for Debe Stagmer from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Sweeney Park on Playground Avenue in Shrewsbury.
For more information, call Becky Stevenson at 235-0459.