It's difficult to quantify just how much has changed in the nearly 40 years since Whitehall educators Karen Chrobak and Sharon Tesi first began teaching the district's youngest students.

CORRECTIONS: The print and earlier online version of this story should have attributed a comment about retirement to Whitehall educator Karen Chrobak and should have stated Sharon Tesi earned her master’s degree from Ohio State University.

It's difficult to quantify just how much has changed in the nearly 40 years since Whitehall educators Karen Chrobak and Sharon Tesi first began teaching the district's youngest students.

Much easier to explain is how much they will miss not ending their careers in the way they expected.

As it canceled proms and commencements for graduating seniors, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic also stripped away the final months Chrobak, 61, and Tesi, 60, thought they had to say farewell to their students -- and to almost two-thirds of a lifetime spent in the classroom.

"I didn't get to say goodbye to my students," said Tesi, who had the added misfortune of falling and breaking her ankle March 11.

Two days later, students saw the inside of their classrooms for the last time in 2019-20, as Gov. Mike DeWine ordered school buildings closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"I left and thought I'd be back next week," said Tesi.

On March 13, "I anticipated we might not come back and made a point to say goodbye to each of my students," said Chrobak -- but it wasn't the same.

In early May, when teachers were allowed to enter their classrooms to retrieve personal property and return it to students, Chrobak said she made "goodie bags" to give to youngsters one at a time as they visited the school.

"It was a still a heartbreaker because they wanted to hug me," she said. "Because they're in kindergarten, they can't understand. They tried to edge around the table between us."

She said by mid-March, her academic goals had been met, as much as they pertain to such young students, "and I was looking forward only to savoring every moment of my last few months," Chrobak said.

Unlike Tesi, Chrobak said she still isn't sure if she is "ready" for retirement and might look for a part-time job in education.

The Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate, after earning a degree from Ohio State University, first led a class in 1982 at Kae Avenue Elementary School.

In the 38 years since, Chrobak taught at Robinwood and Beechwood elementary schools before returning to Kae Avenue to conclude her career.

She has taught only kindergarten or first-grade students at each of the three schools, earning a master's degree from Ohio State along the way.

"I really enjoy being around kids," said Chrobak, who as an adolescent worked as a lifeguard and a baby sitter.

Tesi, too, showed early signs of being at ease around children.

As an eighth-grade student at a parochial school near Marietta, Tesi would visit first-grade classrooms to read to students and serve as a teacher's aide.

Tesi also enjoyed being a student, achieving perfect attendance from grades 1-8 at the parochial school and continuing her streak when she entered public high school near Marietta.

After graduating from Capital University, Tesi arrived at Beechwood Elementary School in 1983, and there she remained for 37 years, teaching only first- or second-graders while also earning a master's degree from Ohio State University.

Both Chrobak and Tesi were selected this year by the Whitehall Education Association as Educator of the Year in their respective schools.

And, unsurprisingly, both said they will miss their students and colleagues.

Chrobak said her retirement won't quite be what she had expected now that overseas trips she had planned with her husband, Jeff, are off the board.

Meanwhile, she said, she hopes that she and Jeff might later be able to celebrate her retirement with Tesi and her husband, Chris, and fellow retirees.

"I have great friends I'm still in touch with that I met when I first began teaching," Chrobak said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo