Kindergarten teacher gives young candidates an opportunity she once had

Retirement approaches for kindergarten teacher Daria Potosky as closes a chapter in her life.

Nesting behind Daria Potosky is a board created by her kindergarten students at Cranberry Pines on why they love the grade along with handmade characters (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

She taught kids their ABCs, the 123s of math and how to enjoy life as a kid.

Now Medford Township kindergarten teacher Daria Potosky approaches the finale of her career, leaving an impact on  students past and present.

Potosky’s career was not limited to kindergarten. She also has taught first and fourth grade, the latter in Pemberton. As she looks at her Cranberry Pines School classroom, she marvels herself at the work her students — whom she affectionately calls her children — have done.

My husband could probably come in here and teach kindergarten,” Potosky joked. “He hears all about my days and it’s been a lot of hard work, but so rewarding. “That’s what’s nice about teaching.

“You get to see the progress on a daily basis and that never gets old.

Her retirement — approved at a board of education meeting Jan. 27 — is effective July 1.  While she has shed many tears at previous kindergarten graduations, Potosky said the last one will be bittersweet.

With 28 years of teaching, an instructor is bound to have students who come back to visit, sharing tidbits about their lives. To Potosky’s enjoyment and amusement, she has had former students return who kept an old cardboard character made for a first-grade play.

Potosky finds it amusing that she has not had any of her former students’ children in her classes.

My assistant went to Cranberry Pines, but I didn’t have her when I was teaching first grade,” she said with a laugh. “It’s funny, but I haven’t.

Society and the ways kids are taught have changed in the nearly 30 years Potosky has been in education, but each set of kindergarteners has the same “spunkiness” and willingness to learn, she noted.

They still have an innocence about them that doesn’t change throughout the years even though the world has,” she added of her former and current students. “If everybody could see the world through their eyes, it would be a much happier, kinder place.”

Eager readers love sitting at a crescent moon table in Potosky’s classroom for a guided  lesson. She fosters a lifelong love of reading, especially when students reach that  “ah-ha!” moment.

I give them my love every single day and they return it tenfold,” she shared. “That reading, I hope, will carry them into great things eventually.”

Students burst with excitement when Potosky selects “The Lazy Little Pig” during those reading lessons, because they love hearing and saying the word “lazy” and understand the content in the book, including its jokes.

Kindergarten is a happy time for many kids as they experience school and create friendships. But Potosky recognizes that is not always the case.

On the first day of school, she sits students down, opens “Ms. Bindergarten Goes to Kindergarten” and starts a discussion with kids about their feelings.

On the second day of school, we draw pictures of how we felt on the first day of school, and then I have them turn it over and draw me a picture of how they feel on the second day of school,” Potsky described.

“That gives me a cue to how they’re feeling about this and all of the smiles come out.”

July and retirement are five months away. As they approach, Potosky looks forward to  spending time with her five grandchildren in a variety of activities.

The veteran educator also has another post-retirement plan in the works.

I want to see all of the United States,” Potosky expressed. “I would say I’ve been to about 16 states and I’ve been lucky enough to visit Europe. I enjoy traveling overseas but I just have a need to go out West.

Retirement was not an easy decision for Potosky; she has often called her departure bittersweet. But she recalls being a young face in the profession, searching for a job and receiving the opportunity of a lifetime.

It’s going to be hard to give up, but there are so many young candidates out there,” she admitted. “I remember back when I started, I wanted that chance and …  I want to give somebody else that chance at this point in my life.”

But Potosky swears she is not completely stepping away from education.

I would like to travel a little bit more, but I possibly would volunteer in schools,” she revealed. “I don’t see walking away and shutting that door.

“That’s not going to happen.”