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Student invites former teacher to share her educational triumph

May 17, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • Darla Shingler, left, has kept in touch over the years with Patricia Mace-Leonard, one of the teachers she had at Washington Street Middle School. Shingler graduated Sunday from the External Diploma Program at Hagerstown Community College. Mace-Leonard now teaches at Kaplan University and Frostburg State University.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN -- Darla Shingler wanted to tell her former fifth-grade teacher she was working toward getting her high school diploma 34 years after quitting high school.

She waited until she had almost completed the External Diploma Program at Hagerstown Community College before calling Patricia Mace-Leonard.

"I was afraid I'd fail," said Shingler, 50, of Hagerstown.

She didn't.

On Sunday, Shingler fulfilled a dream, walking across the stage in a cap and gown to pick up her diploma. In the audience were Mace-Leonard and Shingler's family. Shingler's mother died in October 2006, but Shingler said she knows her mother would have been proud of her.

Last week, Mace-Leonard said she was proud of Shingler and was touched that her former student invited her to the ceremony.

"With my students, I always told them, 'Your success is my success,'" said Mace-Leonard, who teaches at Kaplan University and Frostburg State University.

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Shingler said she quit South Hagerstown High School in the spring of her sophomore year in 1976 because there was too much drama in high school and the homework provided too much pressure.

"I called them the next morning and said, 'I'm not coming back anymore,'" Shingler said.

"When you're 16, you don't think," Shingler said.

Years later, she said she was sorry she didn't have that high school diploma.

After school, Shingler worked in a variety of jobs, including taking food trays to residents at the Western Maryland Hospital Center, and working retail at Walmart and Prime Outlets at Hagerstown. Mostly, she said, she has worked as a nursing assistant at various nursing homes, helping to wash, dress and feed patients.

She did that until certification was required. Then Shingler said she started taking care of people in their homes and doing retail work.

Now that she has her diploma, Shingler said she wants to continue her education, studying early childhood education.

Over the years, Shingler said she kept in touch with Mace-Leonard, who taught Shingler at Washington Street Middle School in Hagerstown's West End.

Even after Shingler dropped out of school, Mace-Leonard said she told her former pupil she could be successful and achieve her goal.

"Success comes in cans, not can'ts," Mace-Leonard said she told her students.

Now Shingler is trying to teach that lesson to her daughter, Britney Shingler, 18, who also dropped out of school during her sophomore year.

Britney Shingler said she's proud of her mom and is working toward getting her General Equivalency Diploma at HCC.

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