SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Cindy Brune first walked through the halls of Mary Purcell Elementary School in 1963.
“As a first grader (the school) seemed big,” she recalled. “I could hardly wait to get to school so I could learn how to read.”
This month, after 40 years of teaching at the school she attended as a child, Brune will walk through its halls one last time before retiring.
“I will miss the buzz and the energy of the students,” Brune said. “The hallways come to life (when students are there.)”
Brune started her career in the Sedro-Woolley School District as a teacher before becoming the third librarian in the school’s history.
She grew up in Sedro-Woolley, where her father taught agriculture at the high school. She was hired at Mary Purcell Elementary the summer he retired from teaching, she said.
“Combined, we have a little over 70 years of a teaching legacy in Sedro-Woolley,” Brune said.
Thanks in part to her father’s influence, part of her always knew she wanted to be a teacher, she said.
“I grew up reading to my stuffed animals, playing teacher,” Brune said.
Brune attended Mary Purcell Elementary for first and second grades. She graduated from Sedro-Woolley High School in 1975.
Four years later, she graduated from Central Washington University with her teaching degree and began her dream job back in her hometown.
“(She) has had an incredible impact on thousands of kids,” said Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman. “Having the opportunity to teach at the school she attended is a dream many teachers have. Cindy has lived that dream. I have personally appreciated Cindy’s positive outlook for Mary Purcell and the district in general. She will be missed.”
When she began teaching, she said in some ways not much had changed in the school since she had been a student.
“The building still smelled the same,” she said. “The smell of pencils and crayons permeated the air.”
For several years, Brune taught first grade and kindergarten. She said she was the school’s only kindergarten teacher for about five years.
Brune received her Master’s in education with an emphasis on children’s literature from Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education in 1987, she said.
“I always knew I wanted to be either a reading specialist or a librarian,” she said. “I absolutely love children’s literature.”
She was excited to become the librarian in 1990, especially since the school’s new library had recently been built.
“I love research, I love helping students find information,” Brune said. “I still love seeing the bright-eyed wonder of a child.”
One of her favorite parts of her job is connecting students with the book that ignites a passion, the same way her favorite book, “Ferdinand,” did for her when she was a child.
“I love nothing more than getting students excited about having a story come to life in front of them,” Brune said.
In her decades in the school district, Brune said she has seen good times, and bad, such as staffing cuts during the recession years.
Her advice to young teachers is to find balance.
“Some years will be diamonds and some will be stones,” she said. “But always look down the road to the big picture.”
In her retirement, Brune said she intends to spend more time with her friends and family and on her hobby farm and with her Nigerian pygmy goats.
She plans to do some substitute teaching, and will stay active with the Sedro-Woolley Schools Foundation.
“I am so proud of our district and how it is portrayed,” she said. “There is Woolley pride all around.”
Even 55 years after she first entered the school some things, she said, remain the same.
“There are still the same core values of love for students, nurturing students and families, and wanting the very best for our student population,” she said. “And there are still times when I smell the same crayons and pencils.”