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Notes from the heart for Dillingham Elementary's Amy Ruby, who retires after 35 years

1st grade teacher Amy Ruby laughs with a high school student.
Christina McDermott
1st grade teacher Amy Ruby laughs with a high school student.

Students sat on Dillingham Elementary’s gym floor during the Friday morning assembly as Principal Nick Tweet stood at the front of the room to announce a special celebration.

“Boys and girls, we have someone in this building who has been teaching for a very, very long time,” Tweet said. “And Miss Ruby - next week is her last week with us. Miss Ruby is retiring.”

Amy Ruby has taught at Dillingham Elementary School for more than three decades, and generations of students have sat in her classroom. To honor Ruby and her career, the school invited the entire community to join the end of the morning assembly.

“We are going to have community members and big kids from the middle school and high school. They’re going to walk by Miss Ruby and they’re going to give her a heart,” Tweet said. “The best way we can celebrate Miss Ruby is to say thank you.”

Tweet handed Ruby a large basket to collect the paper hearts, each with a note to Ruby on it. Then, dozens of former students – from sixth graders to adults – filed into the gym. One by one, they dropped their notes in the basket and hugged Ruby. Then current students joined the line. It was an enormous processional, and by the end, Ruby’s basket nearly overflowed.

The event was a surprise for Ruby -- not even her first graders let word slip about the celebration. She said she was overwhelmed by the number of well-wishers; seeing her students line the school reminded her of how connected and caring the Dillingham community is.

“I really do have so much pride at being part of this elementary school,” she said.

Ruby said that throughout her career, she’s cherished the chance to encourage and support her students.

“I love dearly helping children build their curiosity and find answers. And I love having conversations with children -- helping them understand that they have a story to tell, and that their story is important,” Ruby said.

For Ruby, life is about learning — that’s what she loves most about teaching. And while it’s time to step back from her full-time work, she’s ready for this next chapter.

“I feel like I will just be taking a different avenue on helping children. I will be back volunteering,” she said.

Before leaving, Ruby promised everyone she’d spend the next month reading through each note she received. Then, she went back to check on her classroom.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Christina McDermott began reporting for KDLG, Dillingham’s NPR member station, in March 2023. Previously, she worked with KCBX News in San Luis Obispo, California, where she focused on local news and cultural stories. She’s passionate about producing evocative, sound-rich work that informs and connects the public.
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