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Teacher 'impacted many lives'

January 22, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

On Nancy Hurley's last day at North Hagerstown High School on Friday, three students from her past walked into her classroom.

Dee Stevenson, Tim Thompson and Jan Love Wehrle handed Hurley a bouquet of 32 long-stemmed red and white roses: One for each year she taught.

They gave her a plaque "with love and gratitude" from the class of 1971. "In recognition of a teacher who ruled her classroom with a fist of iron and a heart of gold," it read.

The visit was a surprise to Hurley, but it didn't make her tearful. She enjoyed the small reunion with her former students. They flipped through the pages of an old yearbook, asking questions like, "where are they now?" and "remember when?"

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Hurley spent her entire career at North High. She met her husband, Marvin, there. They taught together 25 years. Their two sons were students at the school. "I never wanted to teach anywhere else," she said.

That sort of loyalty is increasingly rare. "Nowadays people move around a lot more," said David Reeder, North High principal. He has "nothing but wonderful things to say" about Hurley.

"We're really going to miss her," he said. "She's just done a wonderful job. She's had an impact on many lives through the years."

Thompson was one of those whom Hurley impressed. "I really didn't like her when I was in school because she made me pay attention," he said. "We became good friends over the past several years."

Stevenson was a freshman when she met the "extremely strict" biology teacher she now admires. Hurley was hard, she said, but later she was thankful for the discipline.

"She was one of the greatest teachers I've had in my life," Stevenson said. "She really gave it her all. She made you want to learn."

Hurley taught more than biology, physiology and anatomy. She taught "life lessons," like respect and responsibility, Stevenson said. Hurley's retirement is "a loss to the Washington County school system. We need more teachers like her."

After 32 years, Hurley is still passionate about her job. "She still has the fire to teach," said Reeder. At the start of each school year, she got butterflies in her stomach. This year, "I still didn't sleep the night before school started," she said.

Hurley is retiring for "health reasons," she said. It wasn't an easy decision. On Friday, she packed 32 years of memories into three boxes. As she stood amid the textbooks, animal skeletons, cell division diagrams and DNA models, Hurley wanted to keep going.

"It's really hard to leave when you still love to teach," she said.

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