Every afternoon for the past five years, Paul Bush stood near a chain-link fence on the corner of the Elkridge Elementary School sidewalk and waved goodbye to the faded yellow buses that rolled by.
It was no different for the 58-year-old assistant principal yesterday when the excited children boarded their buses. The same smiling faces he saw every day walked up to him and shook his hand or hugged him goodbye.
No different, except that it was the last day of school, and as the last bus rolled out of sight, it marked the end of Mr. Bush's 33-year career as an educator in Howard County and the end of the building where he first began teaching. Next year students will move to a new school nearby.
"This was the school I started at and this is where I'll end it, so that's really special to me," said Mr. Bush, who is retiring. "It's always a little sad when you have to say goodbye, and I'll miss everyone dearly. It's been a real love affair for me."
Born and raised in Elkridge, Mr. Bush was graduated from Loyola College and thought he was destined for the priesthood after college. But a phone call from then-principal John Soles asking him to teach sixth-graders at Elkridge Elementary changed those plans.
"I've never really had a bad year or a bad day," Mr. Bush said. "It's just been anxious once in a while. I've been very blessed to have lived in Howard County all my life, and very lucky that I could work here, too."
He continued to teach when he became assistant principal about 20 years ago at Guilford Elementary and later at Clarksville Elementary. He stopped teaching on returning to Elkridge five years ago because of a policy that took assistant principals out of the classroom and into the office.
"This is a special, wonderful place with great people like Paul Bush," said Mary Jane Mitchell, the Elkridge principal. "He's devoted his whole life to education, and there isn't a person around that doesn't love him.
"It's not only sad that we're losing him, but because we're also moving to a new building next year. This school has been open for over 50 years."
The new school, at 7075 Montgomery Road, will be the largest elementary school in the county. Its features will include nearby wetlands and a greenhouse.
"Change, although it can be sad, can also bring about a positive result," Ms. Mitchell said. "The building has outlived its function as a capable school, and the community is looking forward to our new home."
Mr. Bush will not be forgotten in the new school -- a classroom has been named for him there. Although he's sad that he won't be working there, he hopes to volunteer and help often at the school.
"When I first started teaching, things were noticeably different. There's a better teaching strategy now," Mr. Bush said. "The teachers are better prepared, there's a better curriculum, and I've worked with some wonderful educators.
"I don't really see this as an end," he said. "I wanted to go out when I felt great about everything, and I just want people to remember I was a teacher that tried to do the best that he could."