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GCS teacher ‘laps’ retirement with surprise celebration

Tradition states retiring Pleasant Garden Elementary teachers do a lap around the school. This year those laps became a backyard surprise.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The coronavirus pandemic brought an abrupt end to the school year. 

On a Friday in March, teachers and students left school, not realizing they wouldn't return until at least the fall. 

It was especially heartbreaking for Patty Faust Gray, a kindergarten teacher at Pleasant Garden Elementary. 

She is one of more than 100 Guilford County Schools teachers retiring this year and would not be back. 

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In addition to missing out on traditional retirement celebrations, there was one special goodbye Gray said she was the most distressed to miss. 

Every year, retiring teachers do a final lap around the school with everyone coming out of the offices and classrooms to wave them farewell. 

Gray's lap was supposed to be on June 5 -- the last day of school -- inside the walls of Pleasant Garden elementary. 

Her friends and colleagues knew she was upset, so they came up with a backyard surprise. 

As Gray and her husband were sitting out in their backyard, the night of June 5, suddenly she could hear a bit of a ruckus. 

Just then, friends and family burst through the backyard, lapping around it, and honoring her teaching career. 

They carried signs reading, "No lap around the school? We gonna lap around you!" 

"I have the best family and friends that anyone could ever ask for and they knew that I felt that I was missing a rite of passage, just like all of these high school seniors, and they made it OK," Gray said.