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She taught children the Wight way

June 05, 1997

By SAMANTHA KRULEWITZ

Staff Writer

Margie Wight taught her last kindergarten class on Monday.

"I think it's hard to know how I feel. Not sadness and not joy," the Potomac Heights Elementary School teacher said. "I felt numb as they walked out the door. "

After 30 years of service to Hagerstown's kindergartners, Wight, who spent the rest of the week tying up loose ends, is retiring on Friday, the last day of school.

Because of the length of her career, it is common for Wight, 52, to see adults who were once her students. In addition, four of Wight's students this school year were children of past students. Wight is the daughter of a former language teacher and a school secretary.

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After graduating in 1963 from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md., she didn't know what she wanted to do. Her parents suggested that she go to a teaching college. At the time, Maryland was in desperate need of teachers so tuition was free for those who said they would teach in the state for at least two years.

Wight attended what was then called Frostburg State College. Throughout college, Wight knew that she wanted to teach young children. When she graduated in 1967 she began working at Emma K. Doub Elementary School as a kindergarten teacher. Her second and third years she worked at Woodland Way Elementary.

In 1970, when Potomac Heighs opened, she started teaching there. She taught kindergarten for 14 years before the population in the classroom started to dwindle. She then taught second grade, but didn't enjoy it as much.

"During that time, it became apparent that I liked 5-year-olds better than any other age," Wight said.

Wight said that Woodland Way then closed, so the student population increased again.

"Most teachers are ambivalent about teaching kindergarten," Wight said. "Either they really like it, or they really don't."

Wight said that the curriculum has become more standardized over the years.

"My kids read more," Wight said. "They're extremely literate ... The reading and writing have come so far because of the change in curriculum."

There are two kindergarten sessions, morning and afternoon, Wight said. She has had as many as 28 students and as few as 16. Wight said that over the years children have become more easily distracted and hyperactive.

"I hope somebody can find out why there is more hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder," Wight said. "It is probably a combination of things. I think probably food additives is one reason. I think television is partly to blame. Not because of the content, but the constant barrage of stimuli ... Whoever can find what triggers it ... it will be an absolute miracle."

Wight said she gets angry at talk shows on hyperactivity and the medicine that is used to control it because the shows only notice the negative aspects.

"They don't show the kids that it has helped," Wight said. "It's like a stimulus overload every waking minute."

Wight said she loves teaching, but that she wants to move on.

"I'm happy I did what I did," Wight said. "I think you know when the time is right. I'm not regretful."

Potomac Heights had an extra Maryland flag flying in Wight's honor Wednesday. It was a gift from state Del. John Donaghue, D-Washington.

The school had a ceremony in which the flag was presented to her by former student Betsy Hicks-McVicker, now a library teacher there. Hicks-McVicker had Wight as a kindergarten teacher at Doub Elementary in the 1967-68 school year, Wight's first year of teaching.

During Teacher Appreciation Week in 1996, parents dedicated a tree to Wight and planted it on the school's campus. She was also nominated many times for teacher of the year by parents.

Despite these honors and her love of teaching, Wight said it was time to retire, but she didn't know what she was going to do.

"Now I have to decide what I want to be when I grow up," said Wight, who lives on Oak Hill Avenue in Hagerstown. "I have started another career. I teach classes in my home and others' homes on how to organize and preserve photographs and other memorabilia."

She's still going to be teaching, she said, but adults instead of 5-year-olds.

"It's harder to get adults to write than 5-year-olds," Wight said. "I tell them that a picture is not worth 1,000 words unless you know who's in it."

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