CHICAGO (WLS) -- A beloved, retiring pre-kindergarten teaching assistant at Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy of Social Justice in Englewood is being celebrated and recognized for, among other things, helping the school rise two ratings the last three years.
Carol Bright's journey as an educator is coming to an end after nearly 20 years.
"It's kind of bittersweet," she said.
With the recent passing of her mother, Bright said she knew it was the right time to say goodbye to her students. She said her career has been great, but at times it was anything but easy.
"The most difficult part is having children who are struggling," she said. "You do what you can, you feel like that's a kid. They shouldn't have to deal with those sorts of things."
Bright, who is 63, is one of three retiring teachers at the South Side grade school. All three are being celebrated and recognized for helping the Chicago Public Schools pre-K to 8th grade school jump two ratings levels in the last three years.
The school of 250 students looks to be poised to become a level one elementary school.
"I literally don't know how we are going to be with the three of them not here," said Jasmine Thurmond, King Academy of Social Justice.
The gardening club Bright started to teach students about discipline and patience is legendary in the neighborhood. Born and raised in the Chicago area, Bright said her love of teaching began early. She said she used the gift of music to inspire learning.
"I'm silly. I'm a big kid anyway, so I can make a song about anything and just see them light up," said Bright.
As her time at King comes to a close, Bright said she realizes how much she will miss the kids and her coworkers, but will leave knowing she made a difference.
"I'm ready for it. I'm ready," she said.
Bright said she's going to travel with her husband and spend time with her grandchildren, but also won't rule out coming back to King to work as a substitute.
Retiring Englewood pre-K teacher recognized for helping school rise 2 ratings levels