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Monday, June 8, 2015

Former students, staff celebrate Annandale Terrace's 50th anniversary

Annandale Terrace Principal Andrea Garris and students with a proclamation honoring the school's 50th anniversary signed by Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova and Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.

If a school is like a family, Annandale Terrace Elementary School (ATES) was like a multigenerational family Friday evening as former teachers and students came back to share memories at the school’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Alumni browsed among a collection of old yearbooks and photo albums and toured classrooms and hallways, while there were games and activities for children. A formal presentation in the gym hosted by Principal Andrea Garris included remarks by former staff members and the unveiling of a new school song.  

The ATE award-winning jump rope team performs at the 50th anniversary celebration. The ATE Jumpers will be at the Taste of Annandale June 13.
Among the former students was Jason Minor, 33, whose son, Colin, is in the second grade at ATES. When he attended ATES in 1987-92, Jason lived in his grandparents across the street from the school, eventually bought the house, and lives there today with his family. 

Former ATE student Jason Minor with his son, who also goes to ATE.
“It was a lot of fun here,” says Pam Ratliff Hixson, who was among the first students at ATES when the school opened in 1965. She remembers the names of all her teachers and has fond memories of Mr. Jones, the school’s first principal.

She recalls playing super eight, a game with “super balls,” as well as hopscotch, Greek dodge ball, and kickball during recess. Her younger brother, Steven Ratliff, says his favorite memories were field day every spring and sledding in the winter on a hill between the school and their apartment in the Wedgewood. “I thought it was a mountain,” he says.

Pam Ratliff Hixson and Steven Ratliff have happy memories of ATE in the 1960s.
Their mother worked in the cafeteria, and Steven says the best school lunches were square pieces of pizza, served on Fridays. The cafeteria looks exactly the same, with the same tile, from their days as students. Pam remembers buying 25-cent stamps during lunchtime as down payments for savings bonds.

Stephanie Koontz , who taught first and second grade in 1982-88 remembers ATES as a “community school with a family culture.”

Former teachers Stephanie Koontz (left) and Gwen Spears.
Gwen Spears, who taught kindergarten, first, and second grade from 1982 until she retired in 2004, says were was talk about closing the school in the 1980s.

It’s a good thing that never happened, because Nancy Linsley, an administrative assistant who started working at ATES in 1991, said by the time she left in 2010, the school was bursting at the seams with about 900 students and 15 trailers.

School boundaries in the Annandale High School pyramid were adjusted in 2011, and enrollment at ATES is down to 725, but the school still has 20 quads, one modular unit, and eight trailers. The $310 million school bond that will be on the Nov. 3 ballot includes funds for planning renovations at ATES. Garris says she would like to see the school totally replaced with a new building.
Martha Moshides shares memories of working at ATE.
“This school has a rich history and a rich future. It’s a true neighborhood school,” said school board member Sandy Evans during the formal program in the school’s gym. Former staff member Martha Moshides, who “spent one-third of  my life here,” told the audience, “thank you for making a difference in my life.”

Zac Gomez, who attended ATES in the early 1980s and has children who go there now, offered a unique perspective.

Compared to his time as a student, “everything’s kind of the same,” he says. There’s math and reading, homework, projects, and book fairs, and “the building looks exactly the same.”

Fun with bubbles at the 50th anniversary celebration.
But some things have changed, Gomez notes. Back then there wasn’t a gym, so the kids did rope climbing in the cafeteria and there was no air conditioning. “We felt like Annandale Terrace was diverse back then,” although he remembers being the only Hispanic kid, and there were only a  few African Americans and one kid from Pakistan. Nowadays there are students from dozens of countries. 

Kindergarten teacher Tuyen Vu spoke about the focus on community service when she was a student at ATES and the “the importance of taking care of one another.”

Current ATE students will make their own memories.
For former principal Mary Ann Ryan (1997-2001), some of the highlights from the past include the time she took the school’s champion jump rope team to the White House, the establishment and growth of the Parent Center, the times kindergartners having a bad day in class calmed down after taking a nap on her couch, and the “inspiring teachers who made learning interesting and fun.”

 “Annandale Terrace is always Annandale Terrace,” Ryan says. “It’s the same smiles, the same love, the same commitment. It feels like home.” 

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