ELDON — On a recent weekday at Cardinal Elementary School, Dana McCoy’s first-grade students were rushing around getting ready to go home on the school bus.

They rummaged through their desks and cubbies, searching for hats, coats and flash cards, all 15 children announcing to each other what they found as they went.

It was as if the entire room was in motion: Walls, floors, even the air seemed to be buzzing until the last child marched out the door.

Then, silence.

McCoy, 55, is afraid she’s going to feel that kind of emptiness in her own heart. She is retiring after 33 years in her beloved storm of laughter, chatter and excitement.

“It’s a long time to teach and then walk away,” she said. “Letting go is not as easy as I thought it’d be.”

In her 33 years as a Cardinal first-grade teacher, she found teaching reading most rewarding.

“It’s such a thrill [because] most of [the students] start off non-readers, and by Christmas, they’re reading fluently,” she said. “It’s like a light comes on. It’s amazing.”

One of her first-graders is now a doctor, she said, while another is an elementary school teacher there at Cardinal. And one former pupil is now principal at Cardinal Middle School; she’s taught his children, too.

McCoy has a photo album of her current class, a gift from the kids and parents showing each child creating a quilt square. One square has a drawing of a horse, another a child’s hand print in crayon. The quilt itself, which took months to make, remained a secret until they presented it to her along with the photo album.

McCoy’s eyes welled up with tears as she read the square which reads: “1974-2007 Cardinal Elementary, happy retirement from your last first grade class.”

She said her husband worries about how she will feel, especially next fall when school starts without her. He has booked them on an Alaska cruise for September to give her something to look forward to.

Besides that, she said she’ll have more family time, do some quilting of her own, and pull on her leather jacket to ride on the back of her husband’s Harley Davidson motorcycle.

But that may change.

She said while she’s always loved being a passenger, it may be time to finally get her motorcycle license, buy a Harley — and make some noise of her own.

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