LAWRENCEVILLE -- Becky Barton knows what she'll miss about teaching at Norcross Elementary School: the children and her coworkers.
After a 39-year career in education -- 37 of which have been at Norcross Elementary School -- Barton is retiring.
In all, 314 Gwinnett County Public Schools employees are retiring this year, according to the school system. Collectively, the retirees have contributed 8,112 years of their lives to education and a total of 6,217 years to Gwinnett students. In fact, 39 percent of the retirees have worked their entire careers -- in the classroom, office, cafeteria, school bus or maintenance shop -- in Gwinnett.
Barton is one of the 137 retirees who have more than 30 years of service in education. Ten have more than 40 years in education.
"I think teaching is a calling," Barton said. "You either love it or you don't. You have to love it to stay in it."
Barton worked for a year in Henry County and a year in Forsyth County before she settled at Norcross Elementary. For the past 13 years, she taught English to Speakers of Other Languages.
She said one of the highlights of her career was when she received a call from one of her former students, who is now a teacher in the county.
"She called to tell me I inspired her," Barton said, adding that she hopes she left a good impression with all of her students. "I hope I was a good, positive influence in their lives."
In her retirement, Barton said she plans to do "whatever I want to."
"I hope to travel," she said.
Garry Loveless, a Central Gwinnett High School science teacher who is retiring after working 21 years in Gwinnett, is looking forward to spending time with his grandchildren in his retirement. Loveless was studying to become a chemical engineer before he decided to pursue a career in education. During a stint in the Peace Corps, he was told he would make a good teacher.
"Sometimes you are led into what you are supposed to be doing in life," he said.
After spending two years in Malaysia in the Peace Corps, Loveless worked as a teacher for five years in Alabama. He and his wife then spent eight years in Saudi Arabia, where he continued to teach.
When he returned to the United States, Loveless taught in DeKalb County before coming to Gwinnett.
"I'll miss my coworkers very, very much ... and that proverbial light that turns on when students understand (what you are teaching)," Loveless said. "That's a wonderful experience when you're trying to teach. That's what I'll miss."
Although he's looking forward to retirement, Loveless said he always enjoyed the beginning of a school year.
"Next August, that will probably be one of the hardest moments," he said.