Lifelong county educator retiring at Indian Queen Elementary -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected April 3, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

After devoting her life to Prince George’s County children as a teacher, counselor and administrator for nearly 40 years, Diane Fingers said it’s finally time for her to take time for herself.

Fingers, 61, of Oxon Hill will retire from the school system June 30 after serving as head principal at Indian Queen Elementary School in Fort Washington for 12 years.

Throughout her career in education, she was an assistant principal at Beltsville Academy, a guidance counselor for a number of county schools spanning for more than 10 years and a teacher at Rose Valley Elementary School in Fort Washington.

She has also been a parent and step-parent of six children, now ages 23 to 45, who have all attended county public schools.

“For a while, I’m going to do my thing,” Fingers said. “It’s a great feeling.”

She said her husband, Earnest, retired last year and her parents are in their mid-80s, so she said she is looking forward to spending more time with them. She also said she wants to go into ministry work and take classes toward becoming an ordained minister.

While serving at Indian Queen Elementary, Fingers was faced with a number of hardships, although she said they didn’t phase her much.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2010, but Fingers said she was so dedicated to serving the students that she only missed work five days in 2011 between radiation, treatments and remission for the cancer, which has since left her body entirely.

“Even with my radiation, I would schedule them for the first thing in the morning so I could be back at work in time for school,” she said. “God’s been good. God’s been very good. I’m now cancer-free and I’m going to stay that way, and that’s why I now need to do things for me.”

At Indian Queen Elementary, which serves 318 students, Fingers dealt with two boundary changes. The elementary school added about 150 students one year and lost about 120 another year.

A third boundary change was proposed that would have added even more students, but Fingers explained to the school system the need for fewer students and the proposal was dropped, she said.

“[Adding more students] would have been difficult for her community,” said District 9 county Board of Education member Donna Hathaway Beck. “Indian Queen’s rooms don’t have walls. Each room is divided into four classrooms with carpet walls [pods]. She was able to unite the community to get across to the administration that a pod school has special unique needs and you don’t want to fill it to the brim.”

Beck said it was Fingers’ parenting of her children that has since gone through the school system that made her a successful administrator, teacher and counselor.

“She was not just an employee, but also a parent. You just don’t get any better than when you have an employee also in a dual role as a parent,” Beck said. “She had a commitment coming from different angles. She was clearly working for all children, including her own.”

Judy Adams, principal at the Accokeek Academy, said Fingers was her principal when she taught fifth grade at Indian Queen several years ago. She said it was Fingers who guided her and helped her become an administrator.

“During my tenure with her, she always allowed people to grow. If you wanted to take on leadership roles, she allowed that to happen, or if you wanted to explore different areas of the school, she allowed that to happen,” Adams said. “I wish her all the best in her retirement. She deserves it because she’s a hard-working woman who’s put in so many hours for that school.”

After teaching at Rose Valley and prior to counseling at Patuxent Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, Brandywine Elementary School and Melwood Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, Fingers taught sixth grade at Indian Queen Elementary for one year in 1987.

Becoming principal at Indian Queen brought her full circle around her education career, Fingers said. She said some students at Indian Queen have parents that she taught as a teacher at Indian Queen and still keeps in touch with many of them.

“I wanted to be able to help. I wanted to do something positive for the children,” she said. “I can say that I feel I have done the best I can do. I have given my life to the children, the school system, the families.”

djgross@gazette.net

The original story incorrectly stated the date of Fingers’ retirement. She retires June 30.