CHARLOTTESVILLE — The job title “instructional assistant” falls short of describing what Peg Hines has done for students and teachers.
Hines, who is retiring this year from Eastern Hancock Elementary School after nearly two decades, goes above and beyond the concept of a simple helper, teachers and staff say.
Hines’ experience and calm demeanor guide the tone in the first- fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms where she serves, and her sense of humor will be missed by her second family, teachers say.
“The school and staff are all better because of her sense of humor and presence,” said Dustin Eck, a fifth-grade teacher in whose classroom she has worked.
Hines came to the district when her daughter was in fifth grade, meaning to only stay as long as her daughter was a student there. Her daughter is now a prosecuting attorney in Marion County, but Hines stayed in Charlottesville.
She and her husband live about five minutes from the school, though after she retires, they plan to sell their home and move closer to his work in Greenwood.
When she applied for the job, she was just looking for something close to home, but she was surprised to find she loved working with children.
Hines works with students who need extra attention or help in the classroom, but she’s especially enthusiastic about encouraging students’ interest in reading. She was originally hired as the director of a school-wide reading program, but her job morphed over the years, she said.
She never gave up on kindling that love of literature in the students she works with, however. She spurs them to keep reading, even after they hit their original goal. She even buys little prizes with her own money to encourage students to make progress.
“I’ve always had at least one teacher who was excited about my enthusiasm for reading and made room in my schedule,” she said.
The fifth-grade teachers make it clear Hines is more than a staff member to them — the years have bound them together like a family.
Hines could be trusted to take care of their students no matter what, said fifth-grade teacher Dana Allen.
“She just knows what to do,” added Jill Wales, also a fifth-grade teacher.
Eastern Hancock Elementary School Principal Amanda Pyle and Hines worked together for the last decade, five years of which they worked in the same classrooms with special education students, Pyle said.
“Peg is dependable, detail-oriented, trustworthy, hardworking and very funny,” Pyle wrote in an email. “I will miss Peg’s laughter and joy that she brings to the building.”
Though it’s clear Hines loves the staff and teachers she works alongside, the students are the ones she enjoys the most.
She jokes she’s about a quart low on tears after the last week of school; Allen said several of her students cried as well on their last day with Hines.
“I made a lot of wonderful friends, but it’s the students that kept me here,” Hines said. “They’re so open with their feelings.”