Before Monday's ceremony dedicating a tree in honor of her retirement, Kenyon Woods Middle School Principal Sue Welu was trying to keep it business as usual on the last day of school for the kids.
"I'm trying not to think about it," she said of her time at the South Elgin school coming to an end. She's been at Kenyon Woods since it opened in 2004 and has been an educator with Elgin Area School District U-46 for 33 years. "I don't think this is really going to hit me until my very last day (June 28)."
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She was wrong.
As hundreds of seventh- and eighth-grade students applauded her while PTO President Christina Malecke extolled her many virtues and accomplishments during the dedication of a maple tree in her honor, Welu had to fight back tears before saying thank you and getting hugs from many of her students.
"I'm totally overwhelmed," she said afterward. "I've been trying to keep it together, but now it just hit me," she said.
"This is it."
The PTO purchased the maple because Welu loves trees and gardens and always wants to beautify the school, Malecke said. "We wanted something that would be a lasting remembrance of Sue Welu's dedication."