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A career-long friendship for two elementary school teachers

From beginning to end, they were teachers and friends.

In September 1988, elementary teachers Marguerite Kitz and Kathryn Granzen began working in the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District. Next month, both will retire after 31 years in the district — 30 of which they’ve spent together at Wading River School.

“She and I, we’re a pretty good tag-team,” Ms. Granzen said.

Ms. Kitz, née Byrnes, started as a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school. Since it absorbed grades 3 to 5, she has also taught first and second grades and now teaches fourth.

Ms. Granzen teaches third grade. She taught at a private school in White Plains before switching to Miller Avenue School, where she covered for a teacher on sabbatical. A year later, she joined Ms. Kitz at Wading River School.

Ms. Granzen, of Wading River, freely admitted that she wasn’t a strong student in secondary school — but it was during that time she realized she wanted to become an educator.

“Unfortunately, there was never really a teacher that kind of inspired me, or affected me in a positive manner until I got to high school,” she said. Once she joined a child development course and worked as a classroom aide, she found her passion.

“The minute I stepped into that fifth-grade classroom, I knew I was home,” she said. “That sent my trajectory; I knew what I wanted to do.”

During more than three decades in the district, Ms. Kitz said, both teachers have witnessed a “huge change” in curriculum.

“I think the way in which children are learning and trying to meet higher expectations — it certainly comes with some challenges,” she said.

Ms. Granzen cited the implementation of Common Core standards in the 2011-12 school year as a reason for the shift in curriculum.

Together, she said, they’ve watched superintendents, administrators and school board members come and go.

“But the district has always been child-oriented, looking out for what’s best for the district and what’s best for the students,” Ms. Granzen said.

The teachers grew closer during the 2003-04 academic year, when Ms. Granzen’s daughter, Kelly, was enrolled in Ms. Kitz’s second-grade class.

“[Ms. Kitz] has one rule in her class, and that was to be respectful. And I just thought, ‘Wow, she really hit the nail on the head with that. That covers everything,’ ” Ms. Granzen said.

When Kelly graduated from high school, she received a graduation card from Ms. Kitz.

As graduation season approaches each year, Ms. Kitz, who lives in Mattituck, uncovers her class list from the appropriate year, chronicled in a personal scrapbook. She collects the names and current addresses of each student who remained in the district and writes to each of them.

“I just don’t want them to think it was just a moment in time,” she said. “I want you to know you were such a significant part of who I am. Like a big, giant puzzle.”

She views her students as family, and expressed sadness in her decision to retire.

“I have to come here every day and be my best person,” Ms. Kitz said. “I need to be a reflection of what my children need to be. … This was the perfect job for me.”

Wading River School principal Lou Parrinello applauded both teachers for their creativity, dedication and teaching styles.

“Just before they ride off into the sunset, I had the pleasure of working with them,” he said. “They put their hearts into what they do, and they will be missed.”

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