With generators whirring behind and noisy bulldozer shovels scraping the ground to relocate soil several yards in front of them, a dozen former Saguaro High School teachers last week said goodbye to an old and dear friend.
Smiles mixed with tears as the women gathered for a final photo in front of the school’s 100 building, in which they served nearly 300 combined years. It’s the place where English, social studies and foreign languages were taught and long-lasting faculty friendships forged.
The building will be razed as part of a $50 million makeover at the 41-year-old school that includes a renovated cafeteria, gymnasium, auditorium, media center and classroom buildings.
All Scottsdale high schools are under construction as part of a $217 million bond approved by voters in 2004.
The Thursday visit was a last chance to see a place that will soon be just a memory, albeit one that lives in the minds and hearts of the women who were present and their colleagues who were unable to attend.
Organizer Elena Samfilippo, a Saguaro grad and math teacher who spent three of her 29 years as a teacher in 100 building, said the group of about 45 who have stayed in touch meets about four times a year.
“We wanted to get together here one last time,” she said. “Some people want a piece of the cement of the building once it comes down. This was our home for a lot of years.”
Gail Nelson, a social studies department chairwoman, said the group of men and women get together for lunch, dinner or just to trade stories and see how everyone is doing.
“When the school opened, we were kids,” said Nelson, who taught for 30 years until 1996. “We grew up together. The administration was very supportive. There was good communication from bottom to top and from the top on down. We were all friendly and working together with the same purpose of educating children. That has kept us as close as we still are.”
Carmen Wendt, a 31-year veteran educator who taught English, photography and worked with yearbook and newspaper staff members until 2003, said faculty alumni get-togethers started in 1995. In her mind, the group has the same camaraderie it did when the teachers were plying their trade.
“There was a team feeling with everyone,” Wendt said. “If you had a comment, you made it to a person directly. There was no complaining or fussing around to others. When I went to different schools, the camaraderie wasn’t the same. It’s still there. Saguaro is special.”
Others who gathered at the demolition site were Julie Berkel (English chairwoman, student council adviser, 1971-2003), Maureen Clayton (reading, English, 1972-88), Bea Ferraro (English), Joy Figuerola (Spanish, 1979-1997), Lois Fitch (American history, student council adviser 1967-96), Georgeann Pye (English, reading, 1976-2003) Wanda Schimmer Lynch (English, 1970-99), Sally Selaya (social studies, television production, 1985-2003) and Lisa White (English, social studies, 1979-2007).