GLEN ROSE — Not only will the last bell on Friday bring to close the 2018-19 school year for Glen Rose ISD, but it will also mark the end of an era for two teachers who have a combined 54 years at the district’s lone elementary school.

Second-grade teachers Denise Lane and Missy Freas, who have each taught at GRES for 27 years, will walk out for the final time with a backpack full of memories that will last a lifetime. 

“You want to see them get enjoyment out of learning,” said Freas, who taught in Cleburne ISD for two years before returning to her hometown to teach for the next three decades. “It’s not about a test or anything else. We are helping them become lifelong learners.”

With an average of 20 students per year, the duo has taught close to 550 GRISD students each in their tenures.

“There is a little part of you that feels like you raised them. You become momma, nurse, everything to them. There is a part of you that is attached to them,” said Lane, who taught for five years in Granbury before joining GRES.

Each could tell a desk full of individual success stories about their students, but the underlying theme to each message is how they saw their students blossom and grow during the time in their classrooms — and eventually graduate from high school a decade later.

“I just love when I can see a child making progress and they can come out reading,” said Lane, who graduated from Tarleton State University with a degree in elementary education.

“Maybe they come to you at the beginning of the year and they aren’t quite where they need to be and you work with them all year long, and by the end of the year, they are wanting and asking to go sit and read out of a chapter book just to read.”

Freas, who also graduated from Tarleton with a degree in elementary education, agreed.

“I think when I started, I thought I could save the world, and then you realize you do what you can do, and you make the best of whatever situation you are in at the time, and you hope to make things a little bit better,” she said.

“Hopefully, when a child shows up at school in the morning, they come into a smiling face and someone who loves them, and when they leave out the door in the afternoon, they know they are leaving someone who really cares about them and who will be there for them the next day and the next day, and the next day until you pass them on to another grade.”

Glen Rose Elementary School principal Debbie Morris said teaching for Lane and Freas was much more than teaching students how to read and write. She said they had the uncanny ability to make stories come alive and for students to make connections, or taking math problems and applying that to a restaurant menu and celebrate making the food items. 

“But most importantly to Freas and Lane, the kids and parents knew their teacher loved and cared for them,” Morris said. “GRES will surely miss our teacher friends, but they have left their mark on many kids of Glen Rose.”

Freas spent her first eight years at Glen Rose Elementary teaching third grade and two years teaching first grade before spending the last 17 in the same hallway — and sometimes next door — to Lane.

They aren’t going to miss the tight schedules, tests and other day-to-day rigors of the business, but they will miss seeing their faculty friends and their students. 

“It was really neat when the seniors walked through to get to high-five and hug some of those kids that we had as second-graders. Every year, that’s a neat feeling that they made it,” Lane said. 

“I always tear up because I still see them as when they were little, and I remember them like that. They really do grow up and they become independent. It’s bittersweet.”

Freas said: “I had one of the boys I had — he is a big ol’ boy now — bend over and bear hug me, and this is why you do it, and I had a little part of that somewhere.”

Now each will spend more time with family, travel and catch up on a few things they haven’t been able to do for the last three decades.

They agree retirement may not fully hit them until the summer is over and school starts back up in August, but GRES will forever hold a major place in their hearts. 

“It’s rewarding to know that we are down here at the building blocks of everything that is going to happen and to watch them as they get older, and because many of them do stay in Glen Rose, you see that growth,” Freas said.