Kindergarten teacher Lynne Adams works with her students at Longley Elementary School in Lewiston on Monday. Adams taught at Longley when the school opened in 1974 and will retire when it closes June 18.

LEWISTON — The last day of school, June 18, is the end of an era for Lewiston Public Schools, Longley Elementary School and veteran teacher Lynne Adams.

Adams started at Longley in 1974, the year it opened. After 45 years, she is retiring as Longley and nearby Martel Elementary schools are closing, making way for the new Connors Elementary School that opens this fall.

“I feel like I’m going down with my ship,” Adams said. “I’m ending when it’s closing. It seems the right time.”

She laughed and shared a scene from the first day of school two years ago.

A woman walking into school with her granddaughter looked at Adams and said: “Holy s***, Mrs. Adams you’re still here!” The woman turned to the little girl and said, “‘You have Mrs. Adams. Your mother had Mrs. Adams, and your meme had Mrs. Adams!”

Adams’ reaction: “Oh my God, I really have been here a long time.”

But, saying goodbye isn’t easy. She said she’s always loved teaching. “And I still love it. I just do.”

Adams is highly regarded, the matriarch of Longley Elementary, one of the more challenging schools in which to teach.

It’s in the poorest neighborhood not only in Lewiston-Auburn but in Maine, according to U.S. Census records.

Since Longley opened, test scores have always been low and behavior problems high because too many students come from struggling households, which means a good number of students start school behind their peers socially and academically.

At Longley, Adams is a star, sought out for guidance by students and teachers.

“She is the heart of Longley,” Assistant Principal Sarah Rent said. “Our staff and students adore her.”

When students are having a tough day, a visit to Mrs. Adams provides students “with a reset,” Rent said. “She will be so dearly missed.”

Adams, 65, was born in Lewiston, graduated from Lewiston High School at age 17, and from the University of Maine at Farmington.

“I always played school as a child,” she said. When she started teaching fresh out of college at age 20, “I thought, ‘Oh my God I’m a teacher, and they’re going to pay me to do this!’”

Adams started as an educational technician when Longley was part of the Multi-Purpose Center. One side of the building held kindergarten and first grade classrooms, the other housed city programs, including recreation, health, senior citizen programs and Meals on Wheels.

In 1974, Longley classrooms were “open concept,” meaning without walls. Someone thought that was a good idea.

It wasn’t.

An open concept school meant that students who needed structure were distracted, Adams said.

“We definitely needed walls,” she said.

The walls didn’t go up for about 15 years. Eventually more classrooms and grades were added to the Longley side of the Multi Purpose Center, then the school filled the entire building.

Other big changes Adams has lived through include, in 2000, when immigrants from Somalia first moved in, bringing to her classes students who didn’t speak English.

“At first, nobody knew what to do,” Adams said. Teaching non-English speakers initially meant a lot of gesturing for communication. “You just adapt,” she said with a chuckle.

These days the majority of students at Longley are from immigrant families. It’s going well, Adams said. There are no racial tensions between black and white children in her class.

“The immigrants are bringing up our test scores,” she said. “Once they’re here a while, their parents really, really value education. They want them to do well. The children learn.”

Another big change was in 2010, when the Lewiston School Department applied for and received a federal “turnaround” grant to improve learning.

But to get the millions of dollars from the federal government, half the Longley teaching staff had to go. Accepting the money and losing experienced faculty was a mistake, Adams said, adding it didn’t improve learning.

“They blew up our family,” she said. “It was a very tough year. I felt like I was in mourning. I got through it saying, ‘all right Lynne, you’ve got to a new school. You’ve got to move on.'”

These days Adams says she works with a great team of educators and sees success with students.

In class, her students know if she’s talking.

“They are sitting and listening,” she said. Students are learning to read in kindergarten, and “in my class every child is reading and on level.”

On a recent school day, she and her students sat in a circle reading, sounding out letters and discussing sentences. Students were attentive and focused, ignoring a reporter and photographer in the room. Adams came across as firm but kind, often wearing a smile and enjoying herself.

“What’s the last letter in the word ‘build?

Scarlot?

“D!” the girl answered.

“Perfect,” Adams said.

The teacher asked Hussein to identify the “brain word” in the sentence: “Who helps to build a house?”

The boy picked up a marker and circled “to.”

“Beautiful job. Give him a hand,” Adams said.

Brain words “are words we can’t sound or blend, we have to remember in our brains,” she told the class.”They help us become strong readers.”

Her secret to teaching, Adams said, is to love her students first. “Then I teach them. Once you love them, they’ll do anything for you.”

This fall she plans to become a substitute teacher.

“I can’t stay away,” she said.


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