Debby Hamilton was surprised Wednesday with cake, punch, and gifts all delivered with hugs from her second grade class at Manila Elementary. Hamilton has been a teacher for 32 years -- 31 of those years at Manila.
She taught one year at Keiser before coming to Manila. She taught kindergarten for 24 years at Manila before moving to the second grade.
"It has been nice to be able to work in my hometown," Hamilton said. "It was especially good while I raising my children."
Debby and husband Gary have two children and six grandchildren. Daughter Brittney and husband Jeff Eubanks and son Garrett and his wife April all live in Manila.
Hamilton said the years have passed fast.
"It seems the school year would begin and then it was over," Hamilton said.
She is happy she got to be in the new elementary building for a year.
"They talked about a new elementary building almost my whole career at Manila," she said. "Kindergarten classrooms were in the blue gym when I started. The blue gym is now the brown gym. I have enjoyed working with everyone here through the years. It has been a good place to work. I probably will come back and substitute."
Hamilton graduated from Manila High School in 1972. She worked as a teacher's aide for three years before going back to college.
"I knew I wanted to go into teaching," she said.
Hamilton graduated from Arkansas State University in 1980.
Some of her former kindergarten students became her co-teachers at Manila. She enjoyed teaching them and she has enjoyed working with them.
She plans to spend more time with her family and admits it will be different next year not to be at Manila elementary school when the bell rings for the beginning of the school year.