Even after 42 years of teaching, 23 of those teaching second-graders in Sequim, every day is still a party in Cathy Raycraft's classroom: Streamers hang from the ceilings, a tray of birthday cupcakes sits in the back corner, waiting to be devoured, and Raycraft is unfailingly cheerful.
"She does a lot of things for us," said student Damon Little, 7. "She sings, plays the piano and helps us learn."
If her previous record is any indication, Little will be singing his teacher's praises for decades to come. Just this month, Raycraft, who has taught at Greywolf Elementary since it opened in 1991, said she is attending two weddings of former students - a true testament to her lasting impression. She also receives updates, letters and e-mails from former students regularly.
The love is not one-way, however - Raycraft, a Seattle native, said she remembers all her students, just as they remember her.
"My first class ever was in 1967, 5-year-olds in California," Raycraft recalled. "Two years ago I was in California ... and a 44-year-old man, a former student, came up to me and said 'Do you remember me?' I said, 'Oh Bruce, how could I forget you?'"
It is that dedication that convinced Greywolf Elementary parent Andrea
Dietzman, whose child was in Raycraft's class last year, to nominate her for a "Teacher of the Week" award, sponsored by KOMO AM-100 radio and Washington State Employees Credit Union.
"I got a call on the last day of school saying I won $500 for my classroom," Raycraft laughed. "I thought someone was playing a joke on me!"
Along with the grant, Raycraft was treated to a Mariners game on Sept. 7, where she got to sit in the KOMO suite with the 24 other winners who were chosen from more than 700 nominees. There, Raycraft and the others were treated to a filet mignon and salmon lunch and an incomparable view of the Mariners playing the New York Yankees.
"I felt very pampered, very special," Raycraft said. "I was just thrilled, so honored."
Unsurprisingly, Raycraft isn't using all the money for her own classroom - she said she has already spent a portion of the check to buy reading materials for all four second-grade classes at Greywolf Elementary.
"It is just a joy to get up and go to work in the morning, even after all these years," Raycraft said. "(My students) are incredibly ready to learn ... I've been very, very blessed."
Some of Raycraft's students may argue that they are the blessed ones, but one thing is for sure - they won't be forgetting her anytime soon.
"My mom has lots of stories about Mrs. Raycraft," said current student Lauryn Cameron, whose mother also was taught by Raycraft. "She still remembers her and I'll still remember her."
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