The ‘amazing-est’ Mrs. Andrews retires

Published 9:53 pm Friday, June 1, 2018

After the kindergarten students at Suffolk Christian Academy had their graduation ceremony Wednesday morning, the faculty had a surprise for the school’s longtime kindergarten teacher Judy Andrews.

Andrews will retire at the end of this semester, ending her 30-year career at SCA and her 36 total years of teaching at four different schools. She already had her retirement dinner at Mosaic two weeks ago, but everyone saw fit to give her another honor.

“I thought they were done with retirement stuff, then they pulled this on me,” Andrews laughed.

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A slideshow revealed photos of Andrews and her students dating back to her earliest days at SCA. Andrews started in 1988, the year SCA was established. Quotes from alumni revealed how this kindergarten teacher had impacted more than 500 students since her first day.

“When I started kindergarten, I was scared to death, but Mrs. Andrews made me feel right at ease,” wrote Katie Howell, SCA Class of 2010. “She made learning exciting and fun.”

Children and former students lined up to give her hugs, some with tears in their eyes.

“There will never be another Judy Andrews,” Headmaster Tamra VanDorn said. “She brought style, rhythm and grace to her classroom and she was a joy to work alongside. She was dedicated and dependable and could teach kindergarten in her sleep.”

They also made sure to have her favorite teaching aid: a cup of black coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I’m just a coffee freak,” Andrews said, adding that there’s no room for sweeteners or half-and-half in her cup.

She came to SCA after starting a family with her late husband, Rick Andrews, because she wanted to teach in a place that had a Christian foundation, she said. Her favorite part of teaching kindergarteners was showing them how to read, whether it was “You Are Special” by author Max Lucado or Dr. Seuss.

“It’s just such a joy to see their faces light up when they realize that they’re reading,” she said.

She’s seen technology advance and school grades and lessons plans transfer from paper to computers — an admittedly difficult jump for Andrews — and she packed her things when the Lower School classes moved from Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church on Godwin Boulevard to the Upper School campus at Southside Baptist Church last summer.

Whole families have come to know Andrews over the years. She taught six of Jeff Brittingham and Dawn Marie’s eight kids, all of whom attend or have graduated from SCA. Brittingham has admired her love and compassion for children, as well as her “godly heart.”

“For her, every child is special,” he said. “She treats every single one of them like family.”

“She’s the amazing-est teacher,” according to Brittingham’s son John Michael, 6.

Some of her students have literally been family. She taught her granddaughter Raelee, 7, and her grandson Drew, 6, who graduated from her class this semester. She said she didn’t want to retire until she taught her grandson.

Her plan now is to read a lot of books, enjoy plenty of coffee and spend time with family and friends such as Judy Perry, math teacher at King’s Fork Middle School. Andrews doesn’t expect to actually feel like she’s retired until she suddenly has free time this fall.

“I just thank God for the opportunity I had to share his love with all these children,” she said. “I just pray they will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.”