Students say goodbye to retiring teacher

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Updated: 12/04/2012 9:20 am Published: 12/03/2012 9:47 pm

This is where her boys are, so this has been home, a thousand square feet of space, every inch of it covered with ceramic dust.

Betty Dailey is the ceramics teacher at the Tulsa Boys Home and has been since 1981.

She started as a volunteer, helping troubled boys create ceramics and pottery. And just three years later, she talked her way into a full-time position with a full-time ceramics program at the Tulsa Boys Home.

"They get that first piece out of the kiln. And it's the same to this day. They go - wow! Their spirit soars straight up," Betty said.

Thirty one years later, she still lights up when she talks about teaching her boys how to make ceramic figurines and how to paint and glaze them.

But now, her big room is quiet, only still figurines stare at her to say their last goodbyes.

There are no more boys to teach.

At 72, Betty decided to retire. But she still has stories to tell.

"Some boys come in with low self-esteem, their head down. You say, look me in the eye, be proud of what you're doing," she said, smiling.

And while Betty goes on and on about her boys, two of them walk through the door. They came back to surprise her. Betty winks at them, and then she smiles and laughs.

"These are my buddies! They know me me well. This is Will and Cody. Oh honey, It's so good to see my guys again," she said, hugging both of them.

"I'm having a hard time talking right now. Oh my goodness. I'm so proud of these boys," Betty said, with tears in her eyes.

And then, just as she has for three decades, she tells her boys, now men in their 20s, to sit down and start painting.

"Come on boys. I''ll put you to work," Betty said.

She brightens. Suddenly, she's teaching again. She shows Cody and William how to highlight their figurines with a lighter paint color and reminds them not to use too much paint.

Just as when they were boys, they do exactly as their told.

And they're reminded of what the artisty did for them then.

"Just escape in your own little place, you put yourself in the piece," Cody said.

"It made you sit and think about something," William said.

But now all they can think about is how their dear Miss Betty, as they call her, is leaving the Tulsa Boys Home.

They say she was always dedicated, full of energy, strong and lovingly stern.

"She knew exactly how to handle us then, and she still does," William said. "She's almost been like a mom to me."

"I can't believe she's retiring," Cody said."I saw her working forever... this is her calling you know."

Before they go, William and Cody find the figurines high on a shelf they made as boys. They'd given them to Miss Betty when they left.

Now that she's leaving, she wants her boys to have them.

"In remembrance of our time together," Betty said, warmly.

She hugs each boy and thanks them for coming to see her, for letting her teach them one last time.

"That's the best gift is to see my former students... it was just overwhelming," Betty said, tears welling up in her eyes.

"Oh, it's hard to give this up. This has been home. I don't know anything else," she said.

The ceramics class will continue at the Tulsa Boys home. A new teacher is taking over.

And what's next for Betty? She recently reconnected with her high school sweetheart. In July, he called her after more than 50 years. Now she's moving home to Washington State. They're going to get married.

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