RED MILL — Teachers never know the impact they will have on a student’s life.
Michelle Robusto-DeAtly said attending Red Mill Elementary School from kindergarten to fifth grade influenced her life.
It paved the way for her chosen career.
She now teaches English at Salem High School.
“I love Red Mill,” the returning student said during the 25th anniversary celebration for the elementary school on June 12. “The teachers were amazing. It’s an awesome community. It was a blast.”
She added that her experience at the school 20 years ago taught her to love teaching because the Red Mill teachers seemed to really enjoy their work.
“They loved what they did, and it showed,” she said.
That seemed to be a theme among the 50 attendees at the reunion.
Janice Beatty, who helped to organize the event, was one of the original teachers to open the school in 1989.
She spent the next 18 years there teaching sixth grade. She remembered how wonderful it was to walk into a school where everything was new on its first day.
“What has always impressed me about this school is the friendly climate here,” Beatty said. “You get a feel for the school. It’s a good feeling.”
Twenty-five years later, there was still joking among the original teachers about what they referred to as “Pepto Bismol” pink walls that greeted them when the school opened. They were relieved to see the color scheme had changed, with murals in the cafeteria and entryway adding color and beauty to the walls.
“It’s so weird to walk in the building now,” Beatty said. “There’s so many changes. I don’t know many teachers or staff. There are only seven original teachers left in the building.”
But the sense of camaraderie still exists.
“I spent 18 years here,” remembered Beatty. “That’s a chunk of my life in this building. These people are my family.”
Even through disasters.
Take the time capsule. It was supposed to be airtight. It was supposed to be waterproof.
It was neither.
When it was opened, it was probably a good thing students had not been invited to attend.
Beatty said the smell was overwhelming.
“It was just nasty,” she said.
Many of the contents were damaged beyond restoration, aside from the Virginia and U.S. flags, a group picture of the original faculty, a yearbook, the principal’s coffee mug and school t-shirt.
To prepare for the next time capsule to be opened in 2040, everything has been laminated and will be placed in plastic bags.
Hopefully, essays written by students from all grades will be preserved for the next generation.