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Retiring Mat-Su teacher gets surprise celebration at school assembly

Ms. Hebert spent 20 years of her career at Colony Middle School
Some of the students have never attended a spirit assembly before, but for the first time since early 2020 Colony Middle School finally reunited under one roof.
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 8:25 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Saying goodbye at the end of a school year is never easy, and that is especially true for one Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District teacher. Chris Hebert — a math teacher and cheer coach at Colony Middle School — is retiring at the end of this year, but the school wasn’t going to let her off so easily.

Some of the students at Colony have never attended a spirit assembly before, but for the first time since early 2020, students and staff finally reunited under one roof in the school’s gymnasium. The assembly also served as a bitter-sweet celebration for Ms. Hebert, who’s moving to Tennessee to be closer to family.

“It’s so special to me, just to see that people in those very first pictures from 20 years ago are now sitting in the gym here today,” Hebert said.

Ms. Hebert was joined by staff and students as well as family and friends, but what Hebert said made the gathering so special to her was the previous generations of students she taught who once walked the same halls, some with their own children now.

“Two or three years ago now, I think, I had a student come in and say ‘My mom says you were her favorite teacher,’” Hebert recalled. “And it really hit me then that oh my goodness, this is the first year where I’m going to have multi-generations now.”

After performances from choir students, orchestra students, and the very cheerleaders Ms. Hebert coached, the school dimmed the lights in the gym and played a tribute video that featured decades worth of photos of Ms. Hebert’s time as an educator in the Valley. Students waved their flashlights on their phone to light up the dark room.

“What a special tribute that is — not to me I guess — but to a legacy built on serving others and being part of something bigger than myself,” Hebert said through tears. “Wanting to be there for young people for the long haul.”

After 20 years of being there for her students, Friday they were all there for Ms. Hebert.

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