"I really loved working with the teachers, the kids. That was my highlight," said Ford, who will retire as assistant superintendent for instruction on June 30.
So far this year, Ford said, he has been able to spend significant time at only 25 of the county's 46 schools.
"That's not good, in my opinion," said Ford, who said it has become harder to do so as his responsibilities have broadened.
Ford started out in the classroom, teaching fifth grade at the old Washington Street School in Hagerstown's North End.
After 2 1/2 years, he went to tiny Dargan Elementary School, where he simultaneously served as principal and taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
Another teaching principalship followed at Rohrersville Elementary School. Then he opened up and headed a middle school in Cascade.
Then came a succession of principalships - at Funkstown, Boonsboro, Fountaindale, Hickory and Bester elementaries - before Ford moved to the school board's central office in 1982.
He became an elementary supervisor, responsible for health and science curriculum and overseeing instruction in some of the elementary schools, where he evaluated teachers and programs.
Ford kept the same curriculum areas but took on the added responsibility of evaluating eight elementary principals when he became an elementary director in 1988.
In 1994, he moved up to executive director of instruction. The title - but not the job - was changed two years ago, Ford said.
Looking back, he said, it's hard to pick his favorite post.
"All the jobs were different," Ford said. "I liked them all...And I really loved being a principal."
The further removed from the classroom Ford got, the more delay he saw between decisions and results.
For example, the decisions that led to the improved test scores the school system is seeing now were made five or six years ago, he said.
"You have to make changes all down the line," said Ford, who credits his predecessor with starting the ball rolling.
Considering the outstanding people he has worked with and the freedom he has been given, Ford said he couldn't have picked a better school system.
"If you had a good idea, and it had merit and was sound, they let you try it. That hasn't changed since the 1960s," Ford said.
It was Ford's uncle, former Clear Spring High School Principal Bill Parkin, who urged him to consider Washington County for his first teaching job.
Teachers were in high demand at that time, said Ford, who grew up in a small coal mining town near Johnstown, Pa.
Ford had planned to join the Pennsylvania State Police after finishing four years in the Air Force, where he worked as a dental technician.
The boyhood dream - crushed when he learned perfect vision was required - was replaced with his second long-time interest, education, he said.
Only once did Ford consider leaving the instructional end of education. He considered, and decided against, a switch to human resources.
"I think I wanted to stay closer to working with kids, schools," Ford said.
He has mixed feelings about retiring because he enjoys his job so much, he said.
But he and wife Carole decided years ago that he would retire at 60 so they could enjoy time together before they got too old, he said.
Ford said he's looking forward to spending time with his wife - taking short trips, working around the house, volunteering, golfing - and doing things he hasn't had time to do, such as hunting and fishing.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I look at it as another step in life."