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LCE celebrates trio of outgoing educators with songs, tearful goodbyes

La Cañada Elementary School teachers, parents and students came together in a recent after-school celebration to bid a fond but tearful farewell to three educators who will be leaving after the final school bell rings today.

The May 24 event honored fourth-grade teacher Sue Fuelling, who will be retiring after 14 years at the school, and physical education teacher Debi Hayos, who’s logged 24 years with La Cañada Unified School District and has 36 years of teaching under her belt.

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Sixth-grade teacher Marie Morin was also honored, as she leaves the district to take a job in Marin County.

The three were serenaded by members of the Lion’s Pride chorus and received heartfelt tributes from fellow teachers and friends, who recounted the many ways Fuelling, Hayos and Morin touched their lives and made them better educators through their kind counsel.

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Among them was first-grade teacher Sheri Burns, who spoke on Morin from the perspective of being a colleague, friend and parent of one of her students.

“She’s brought so much to the LCE community in her 13 years here,” Burns told the crowd. “As a mom and a teacher, I realize how very special it is to say your child has been taught by family — at the end of the day that is what Marie is to me.”

Hayos said when a school project asked her to write something about herself, she wrote she’d been a teacher for 36 years. It got her curious about how many students she’d had over the years — between Glendale and La Cañada she’s taught 11,419 pupils.

“I starting thinking, ‘Gee, maybe I should be looking into retirement,’” the Laguna Beach resident laughed.

Hayos plans to spend time with husband George, three children and grandchildren, focus on her gifts business, Debi’s Treats, and has already lined up some tennis dates. And while she’s the kind of person who moves forward in life without any regrets, she says she’ll miss her colleagues and students.

“I value the friendships I’ve made and the things I’ve learned from the kids and the staff,” she said.

Fuelling, who spent the entire day of the celebration wearing a tiara with the words “officially retired” in pink rhinestones, said she and husband Tom are looking forward to traveling and playing more golf. Additionally, she hopes to work on developing a curriculum for teachers interested in California history, which has been a personal passion of hers.

“I’m just anxious to be able to spend time doing all of the things I love,” she said, expressing her affection and appreciation for the LCE send-off.

“I feel like Megan Markle, like I’ve suddenly become royalty,” she joked.

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