Diane Nemir figures she is skirting the edge of burnout.

After fourteen years of teaching in Arlington County schools, she quit last week.

There has to be more out there than noisy classes and 15-minute lunch breaks and only a few minutes of adult conversation a day, she says.

There has to be more out there than teaching school, and Nemir wants to find it.

"I leave with no bad feelings at all," says Nemir, a special education teacher at Abingdon Elementary for the past two years and a French teacher at Yorktown High School before that.

"I sincerely feel that teaching is a privilege. I just think that my talents, well, could serve best in another kind of setting. And I think it's time, after spending this amount of time in the world of children, to try my hand in the world of adults.

"I know there's stress in every job . . . I've worked as a temporary secretary over the summers and I know how hard people work, how much stress there is in every type of job. But I think that teachers have so little time. They are always coping with the now. There is always a problem to solve at this very moment, so there's little time for thinking about bigger problems, how to deal with bigger things."

So for Nemir--an amateur painter, musician and tennis player--the decision to leave teaching is a positive, not a negative one.

"If you're looking for someone who's burnt out, disgusted, disgruntled and going nuts, who thinks the whole system's going to hell, well, I'm not the person," she says.

"Teaching has been my whole life for the past 14 years. A lot of teachers, I think, don't have the kind of flexibility I have as a single woman. They don't have the freedom I have to try something new. You only have one life.

"The two years I spent teaching special education have been like 20 years of living in terms of spiritual growth and personal development. But now it's time for something else. I just want to move on."

After thinking about it for some time, Nemir decided to leave school teaching for now.

"I guess I'm voluntarily rotating myself out of the classroom to a new environment. I don't want to lose my idealism to burnout. Burnout can kill you mentally and physically."

She hasn't decided what she'd like to do, though she believes she "has a God-given gift" for teaching.

She's been taking night classes at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria and says perhaps she'd like to get into counseling at a hospital.

Or, she says, maybe she'd like to teach sick or terminally ill children or do some kind of therapy with hospitalized adults.

"I think I will always teach in some setting," Nemir says. "Maybe I'll teach music or tennis, or little children or adults or old people. I don't really care. Teaching is a wonderful profession, an art."

But she will worry about her future later. "I'm going to have a really good summer. I'm going to enjoy and relax and travel. I'm going to have a heck of a good time. And then I'm going to come back and really start thinking about what I want to do next year.

"I don't have to have the best job in the whole world next year. Maybe my next job won't be so wonderful. I'm sure it'll take some time to get the skills I need to get to where I'm being led.

"I guess you can say I'm looking for a way to do some good in this world. I think I've done some good in the school system. But now, I think, there are bigger things to do."