Teacher who helped raise Pauline Jones Elementary to new heights retires after 35 years in education

·2 min read
Second-grade teacher Deborah Saburro and her students at Walker-Spivey Elementary School take a photo on the last day of school before winter break Friday.
Second-grade teacher Deborah Saburro and her students at Walker-Spivey Elementary School take a photo on the last day of school before winter break Friday.

A teacher who was part of the efforts to turn around a failing Pauline Jones Elementary School retired last week after 25 years working in Cumberland County Schools.

Deborah Saburro, 65, a second-grade teacher at Walker-Spivey Elementary School, retired Friday.

She said her desire to teach for the last 35 years was sparked by a Sunday school teacher who showed her how to read during elementary school.

After teaching in New York for 7 years and in Delaware for 3 years, then becoming a single mother to three children after a divorce, Saburro moved to North Carolina to continue her career working for Cumberland County Schools.

In addition to Walker-Spivey Elementary School, Saburro taught at Sunnyside Elementary, Mary MacArthur Elementary and Pauline Jones Elementary.

Pauline Jones Elementary School: A school that fought failure and won, if only briefly

In 2012, while she was working at Pauline Jones, the school received a National Blue Ribbon, a U.S. Department of Education award, in recognition of academic achievement, Saburro said.

“I went to Pauline Jones because they were seeking national board-certified teachers, and that school was going to close because they were doing so poorly,” Saburro said.

Academically, students at Pauline Jones Elementary School were not meeting the minimum state requirements.

"There were three of us (national board-certified teachers) that were hired and we did start turning that school around, but it wasn’t just us, we had a really good principal,” Saburro said, giving credit to then-principal Rudy Tatum. “We all together changed the culture of the school.”

Ultimately, Pauline Jones Elementary School students were moved to Walker-Spivey Elementary School, which had been used as an alternative school, in 2012. The move was required under a Hope VI grant that stipulated the Old Wilmington Road neighborhood would have a community school. Pauline Jones is now an extension of Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Principal Rachael Robinson at Walker-Spivey Elementary School said finding a replacement for Saburro will be difficult.

“She's a phenomenal teacher,” Robinson said.

Robinson said Saburro's classroom of 14 students has set a great example.

“I thank her for her 35-years of service,” she said.

Although she’ll miss teaching, Saburro said it’s time for her to retire.

“I want to do the grandma things,” she said.

Health and education writer Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon can be reached at acastrellon@gannett.com or 910-486-3561.

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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Walker-Spivey Elementary School teacher retires from Cumberland County

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