From promoting student leadership to encouraging a welcoming classroom for everyone, third-grade teacher Cindy Wajda’s presence on campus will be deeply missed. Wajda will retire at the end of this school year, saying a final goodbye to Pine View after 22 years of teaching.
Wajda grew up in Maine but spent much of her life in New Hampshire. As a child she always felt that education was her calling and knew that one day she would become a teacher. Her youngest brother had Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder with intellectual and developmental delays, and she was heavily involved in his schooling and care from a young age. Wajda attended Keene State College in New Hampshire and pursued a dual major in both elementary and special education. As well as holding a bachelor’s degree, Wajda has additional gifted and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) endorsements.
Prior to her career as an elementary school teacher, Wajda taught the emotionally-handicapped and -disabled for about 20 years. In 1989, Wajda moved to Sarasota, Fla. from New Hampshire and taught at other elementary schools for several years. First, she spent a year teaching preschool-aged children at Julie Rohr Academy. She then spent seven years at Tuttle Elementary, until transferring to Pine View when her own children entered middle school. Wajda taught fourth-grade students at Pine View, later becoming the third-grade teacher she is today.
Early in her Pine View career, Wajda began sponsoring K-Kids, the popular community service club for elementary school students, after the previous teacher transferred to another school. With the club still going strong, she never looked back, fulfilling this role for about 20 years. “It’s great to see young people who care about the environment and the community,” Wajda said.
Third-grade teacher Misty Tucak has worked closely with Wajda for almost her entire Pine View career, especially on annual events such as Third Grade Rocks. She will miss her kindness as well as her expertise in working with children with special needs. “She always knows how to share her respectfulness to colleagues and students,” Tucak said.
“I love Ms. Wajda,” Assistant Principal Alison Rini said. “[She] gets to know her kids so she can individualize instruction, and she really goes the extra degree in meeting everyone’s needs.”
Looking back at her Pine View memories, Wajda fondly remembers Accelerated Reading (AR) sleepovers. Third-graders who earn enough AR points are allowed to attend the celebration, which lasts all night. Annually, Wajda and her colleagues would sponsor various activities at the event. Wajda would have kids rush around the gymnasium to different stations, participating in a boot camp. “I run around with a whistle and scream at them,” Wajda laughs, “I treat them like I’m a drill sergeant, and they love it!”
Former student and ninth-grader Emily Naidel enjoyed every second of her time in Wajda’s class. “She’s amazing. She encouraged everyone to learn, and she made it fun,” Naidel said. “She wanted me to do my best, and she knew I could.”
Post retirement, Wajda and her husband plan to buy an RV and travel cross-country, visiting state and national parks and attending music festivals. Eventually, the pair wants to end up in Los Angeles, where their children live and plan to spend as much time as possible with their grandchildren.
Wajda’s future sure looks bright, but in regard to her legacy, Wajda’s unique classroom will be remembered by all, a place her kids could call home. “I try to instill in my students a sense of family,” Wajda said. “We teach that we all need to respect and support each other and take care of our community while performing to the best of our ability.”