Roanoke County teacher retires after nearly half a century

Larry Rhodes, "mayor of Green Valley," will retire next week

ROANOKE, Va. – One Roanoke County teacher is getting ready to walk out of the same school where he's taught for more than four decades for the final time.

Larry Rhodes teaches first grade at Green Valley Elementary School. That's where he's spent his entire 44-year career.

"Some people are lucky enough to start out at the best place possible and I knew immediately this was the best place possible," Rhodes said.

In nearly half a century, Rhodes has taught hundreds of students, spanning generations.

“I call them grand-students because they're children of children who I’ve taught," Rhodes said.  

He's impacted more than just the kids in his classroom.

"He’d go out of his way to make anybody who came into this school feel welcome," music teacher Mary Lou Hagen said.

Fellow teachers said Rhodes has taught them invaluable lessons too.

"I’ve learned so much from him about how to take every situation and see the best, see the best in every child and try to strive to get them to be the best that they can be," Hagen said.

Rhodes has helped build a community within the walls of Green Valley. That community has stepped up to help him many times, like when he was diagnosed with cancer.

"My biggest concern when I had cancer was I didn't want to miss school days. And luckily I was able to do my treatments before and after school. My surgery, I did over Christmas vacation so I wouldn't miss very much," Rhodes said.

His unique dedication to our future leaders is evident in the passion with which he teaches every lesson.

Rhodes is spending his days counting down to retirement much like his career, focusing not on his plans, but on his students.

"I hope that they'll be lifelong learners,” Rhodes said.

It’s a bittersweet ending for a man leaving behind a legacy and a lifelong impact on learning.

"It’s hard to imagine Green Valley without Larry," Hagen said.

"I feel like it's been just a wonderful career. I have loved every moment of it,” Rhodes said.

The last day for Roanoke County Schools is June 6.

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