Dee Daugherty is the kind of third grade teacher students think is too strict, the kind of teacher who, when a student gets rowdy during spelling period, will hand over her chalk and say, "OK, Smartie, if you don't want to listen, then why don't you teach?" Then she'll fold her arms and purse her lips, walk to the back of the class, sit down in one of the little chairs and wait.
Dee Daugherty is the kind of third grade teacher who taught the brothers and sisters and even the parents of some of her students.
With graying hair and thick trifocals, comfortable shoes and a neat, prim dress, she seems a fixture in the field, a teacher who was, is, and will always be teaching. A woman with chalk dust in her blood.
After 40 years of teaching, 29 of them at Tuckahoe Elementary in Arlington, Daugherty is neither burned out nor stressed.
Her salary could be better but she doesn't really care. Forty years ago she made $100 a month.
She faces "her kids," as she calls them, when she has a headache, when she has a cold, when she's tired. Last year she had surgery that was supposed to keep her out six months. She returned in two weeks.
"Forget all that stuff about teacher burnout, and about all those other things you always read about," Daugherty says. "If you want to teach, you teach. You keep on going because you are doing something that has a real meaning. I started out enjoying teaching. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I became one, and I just assume I will be one every year. I am here because I want to be here."
Daugherty wants to be here, she says, because she believes she is doing something good for her students. This is not always recognized. Teachers don't get gold cups for accomplishments such as "doing something good." But once in a while she takes the gold.
Like the other day, when one of her old students came back for a visit.
"He was an Army captain, very handsome, maybe 25 or 26 years old," Daugherty says. "He came up to me, and, of course, I didn't recognize him, and he said, 'Mrs. Daugherty, you probably don't remember me, but I was in your class, and, I don't know why, but I just wanted to come see if you were still here.'
"This is the pleasure of teaching, why I can't think about quitting," she says. "You never know what you've done for a child, when you touch them or how deep you touch them. But you know you do. You're always aware of it. I guess that's why I'm here."
Daugherty doesn't particularly want credit for thinking this way, doesn't particularly want credit for sticking with teaching so long.
"The rewards of teaching come from the success of the children," she says.
From a piece of paper, she reads the accomplishments of one of her former students, sixth grader Colleen Perry: first place finisher for Arlington County in the 12-year-old girls' category of the President's Awards for Physical Fitness; captain of Tuckahoe's award-winning safety patrol; alternate to the Arlington team that will compete in a regional spelling bee; participant in the sixth grade's "1890 Music Hall Revue," to be shown on cable channel 32.
She offers a list of other Tuckahoe children who, for instance, won awards at the Virginia State Special Olympics Summer Game in Lynchburg or who won medals in county-wide math competitions.
"These are things that kids like Colleen and the rest will never forget," Daugherty says. "They may forget some of the books they read, they may forget some of the spelling words, but they will never forget things like being in the Music Hall Revue . . .
"My husband thinks I should think about retiring. He thinks I should take some time for my own life. But what would I do at home? Go volunteer at some hospital somewhere? Plant more flowers?
"I just love this school. It's my home. It's my life."