NEW TOWN, N.D. (KXNET) — Friday was the last day of school for many students in North Dakota, including those at Edwin Loe Elementary School in New Town. It was also the very last day of teaching for Val Hettich, who is retiring more than 20 years later than most people.

“Every year she would come to me and say, ‘I got another year. I got another year.’ And it was just so wonderful and every year it was like, ‘Yes!’ It was a celebration to have her come back. And then this year she came and said, ‘It’s time for me to retire,'” said Principal Jenell Bear.

After a total of 50 years of teaching, Hettich is retiring at 91 years old.

“I just thought it was time,” said Hettich. “And I would like to do some things. And my husband isn’t very well so I thought that I should maybe take care of him for a while.”

Bear says Hettich was a joy to have at the school, and just to be around.

“She’s a breath of fresh air,” said Bear. “She’s wonderful to have here. We all love her. She’s everybody’s grandma. I’m gonna miss her smile and her hugs. She has a patience with the kids that is just unfounded. She’s kind to all of the kids. They all love her.”

And Hettich says she loved her students too, in fact, that’s why she stayed so long.

“It’s just the children,” said Hettich. “They’re so sweet and so lovable at that age. And I love all the hugs I get.”

Bear says Hettich not only helps her students, but she also helps other teachers, too.

“The teachers look to her also as kind of a mentor and someone that can help,” said Bear. “Again, she’s everybody’s grandma so she has advice for everyone, she’s available to help, she brings little gifts. She’s always hugging. You never see her without a smile on her face.”

Hettich has advice for present and future teachers:

“Just love the children and see that they grow mentally, physically,” said Hettich.

Hettich says she taught in Kansas and Riverdale, North Dakota, before moving to New Town.