TARPON SPRINGS — Deidre Deal graduated from Tarpon Springs High School in 1979. After attending college and obtaining a teaching degree, she returned to her alma mater, and she never left.

Deal is retiring at the end of this school year after a 40-year career teaching business and accounting. In addition to being a teacher, she also served as cheerleading coach, student council adviser and junior class sponsor.

Today, she calls 17 of her former students her co-workers including the school’s principal, the school resource officer and café manager.

Deal was honored on May 18 with a rose ceremony attended by school faculty, several of whom were her once her students. They shared some of their favorite memories and talked about how she has impacted their lives.

Principal Leza Fatolitis shared memories of Deal’s days in the 1990s serving as the cheerleading coach.

“Seeing Ms. Deal every Friday night at the football games, I just remember her standing out there with her water cooler for her cheerleaders and her pompoms and knowing that the next morning she would get in the car with her parents and her family and head to Tallahassee, because they were FSU diehards” she said. “I remember you giving it your all every Friday night, and getting up early the next day to make your joy with your family.”

Behavioral specialist Stephanie Crawford remembered not only Deal’s impact on her students through her teaching but also her impact on the community.

“Ms. Deal has given 200 percent to Tarpon Springs High and another 100 percent to the community,” she said.

She remembers Deal organizing food drives and using her own money to purchase items for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for needy families in the community.

Former student Fotini Sisois surprised Deal by traveling to the ceremony from Newark, New Jersey, where she is currently in law school at Rutgers University.

“I don’t know another life without you, you are like a second mom to me,” she said. “You were my confidant; you were everything to me. And you have changed Tarpon High.”

Deal was visibly moved by the surprise ceremony in her honor and spoke fondly of her long career.

“I have loved every minute here,” she said. “And I thank you all for all you have done to support me.”

She said the biggest reason she stayed at Tarpon High for so long was the same reason many of the teachers at the school have been there for a long time.

“We do it all for the kids,” she said. “As much as we teach these kids, it’s the little things we do for them that they will remember.”

When asked what her plans are in her retirement, Deal said that she plans to relax and do a little traveling, but the thing she looks forward to the most will be having the ability to sleep in.

“I won’t have to get up at 6 a.m. anymore,” she said.