Four staff members of Orcas Island School District retiring

Four Orcas Island School District employees are hanging up their backpacks and venturing into retired life.

Georgia Philbrook spent 38 years working various positions for the school district. From starting as a classroom aide in 1980 and departing as the high school office manager this past spring, she’s left her mark throughout the campus.

“She was there pre-email and word processors – a time when all communications were done either over a PA, a typewritten letter on carbon paper or a telephone call. She handled the transition into the technology age with aplomb and not a lot of training,” said Cathy Ferran, administrative assistant to the superintendent. “She cared deeply about her students and fellow staff. As a mom in this district for 19 years and as an employee here for the last nine-plus years, I know that she is beloved by all, and her presence in the high school will be missed.”

Philbrook plans to relocate to Oregon and raise her great-grandson on the family farm. Her favorite memories include moving to a new high school building in 1993 and working with staff, students and parents.

“For all the students who say that they hate school, remember it is only four years of high school; that is not very long, and after that it is up to you what you want to do with your life,” Philbrook said.

Physical education and health teacher Cindy Elliott taught at Orcas for 29 of her 41 total years as an instructor. She says most of her time in the Orcas district contained good memories.

“Our kids give us daily memories that keep teachers teaching,” said Elliott. “People often think it is the students who went on and did something because of how you influenced them and that is always gratifying, but for me – and I think most teachers – it is [the] daily or weekly small progress students make.”

Elliott recalled many experiences throughout her career that were rewarding and enjoyable. From class discussions that led to new discoveries (even for her) to helping students improve their writing skills outside of the classroom, her favorite memories were those moments when she helped a student to succeed.

One perk of retirement that Elliott is looking forward to is not having to set an alarm clock. She said she will travel, camp and take classes.

“I have been truly blessed to work at this school, with the staff we have and have had, with the students I have gotten to know and the support of parents,” Elliott said. “I will miss all this but the next adventure awaits.”

Also retiring at the end of this school year are Nancy Knapp, who taught elementary on Orcas for 27 years, and paraeducator Kathy Eastman, who has been with the district for 18 years.

The public is invited to celebrate the women’s retirements from 3:30–5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20 in the school cafeteria.