As Annapolis High School faculty members gather for a retirement dinner tonight, they honor three people with more than a century of teaching experience at the school.
Frank Draper, chairman of social studies; Eva Purdy, who heads the foreign language department; and Art Peregoy, science department chairman, together count 105 years of teaching at Annapolis High.
"This kind of longevity is unheard of in this business," says Phil Greenfield, a humanities teacher at Annapolis. "This is a transienttrade. Kids come and go; administrations play musical chairs. What gives a school consistency is the teaching core.
"And this is a core. More than a 100 years between the three of them -- we may never see this kind again."
Peregoy, 66, retired last June for health reasons, and Purdy and Draper conclude their teaching careers next month.
As the three instructors count down to a retirement dinner, they reminisced about their lives as teachers.
For Draper, 63, the years have brought changes in the classroom. He traces the change from the 50s, when teachers exerted considerable control over students, through the upheaval of the 60s and 70s -- "a horrible time," Draper recalls -- to the 80s, when the emphasis began to swing back to order again, he says.
"I don't think we'll ever have the control in public schools that we once did. School is just a reflection of society. Whatever happens outside, happens inside."
Draper, a genial, silver-haired man, managed to escape some of the disorder in academia by teaching advanced placement U.S. history, where his students were generally serious about going to college and interested in learning, he says.
"I always tell the kids, 'You're in the big leagues now. No petty excuses for not doing stuff.' "
After some initial difficulty, "most take hold," Draper says. "They have excellent minds. I try to teach study skills, essay writing, test-taking skills. These are thingsthey can use forever."
Purdy, 57, who herself graduated from Annapolis High, as did both of her sons, hopes the legacy she's left students is a willingness to accept differences in others.
The importance of this lesson was brought home to the French teacher during a year teaching in a Communist commune in France, she says.
While teaching English at the commune during 1984-1985, Purdy asked her students to list 20 things they thought of when they thought about the United States.
Czechoslovakian-born Purdy (whose last name was Asher until her recent remarriage) was appalled that the top three on every paper were racism, violence and poverty.
"I had always taught my students to appreciate a different culture. But these students had beentaught something quite different. After that year, I didn't know if I could continue teaching," she says.
Still, she persisted, tryingto help students understand that many differences in cultures aren'tpeculiar.
"I tell my French classes, 'We're not going to say the word weird,' when we start a year. If a student says, 'Oh, that's weird,' I raise an eyebrow, and they say quickly, 'I mean different!' "
Science teacher Peregoy retired last May after a serious illness, and the school had no chance to give him a dinner.
"I find it verykind of them to remember me, even after a whole year, and invite me back," says Peregoy, who retired to Grasonville on the Eastern Shore.
"The thing I will remember most is the very congenial faculty. We've always had a very nice group, easy to get along with," he says.
Peregoy's teaching years were pleasant, in part, he says, because as a physics teacher he encountered consistently high-quality students.
The dinner to honor the three instructors is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight at the Annapolis Holiday Inn. More than 150 faculty members, family members, friends and former colleagues are expected to attend.
"We really want to honor them for staying in a tough business," says Greenfield. "It's not exactly an advancing economiccareer." Though colleagues and students praise them, not one of the three planned to be a teacher.
Draper had a college teacher advisehim to take some education courses.
Purdy entered the job market when "there weren't many other job opportunities for a woman who wanted to be a professional."
Peregoy took a teaching job almost on a whim.
But all three are grateful.
"I'm not so sure people generally go into teaching at an early age," says Peregoy. "You start witha job like that, and once it gets you, you can't give it up."