Carol Hilty can't talk about retiring from 30 years of working at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind without becoming emotional.
"It has been a career better than I ever could have imagined," the superintendent for the past 15 years said, her voice quivering.
"I will greatly miss the students," she said during an interview Thursday.
But Hilty points to the wisdom of students, who when she announced before winter break that she intends to leave her 40-year profession as an educator, asked what she will do.
Travel? Perhaps, she said.
Spend more time with her grandchildren and other family? Most definitely.
Quipped one student: "You could probably come back here and volunteer every day."
Not a bad idea, Hilty said.
Now is "the right time" to step down, she said, as major construction projects on the campus, including remodeling dorms, recently have been completed, a new strategic plan is in the works, and an independent financial and operational review of the school is underway to direct the future.
"Anytime you have an opportunity for someone from outside the school to determine what we're doing well and share ideas of where we might grow is useful," she said. "That's what I hope will come of it."
Hilty started working as a teacher at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, the only such school in the state, in 1989, after spending a decade teaching at other schools.
After one year, Hilty was promoted to principal of the School for the Deaf, a role she held for 14 years.
She also became assistant superintendent and served as interim superintendent when the former leader stepped down.
Hilty said she did not apply for the interim superintendent role.
"I was quite happy being the principal," she said.
After a national search for a new superintendent, the board asked Hilty if she would drop the "interim" from her title and become the school's head official.
Over the years, she's focused her work on focusing on what's best for the students, all of whom are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing.
"I have nothing but passion and love for this school," Hilty said. "We such great students with potential and a tremendous staff who support the students in identifying their gifts and encouraging their growth."
She cites updating classrooms to include 21st Century learning tools and building strong relationships with public school districts to work together to shape students' education as other accomplishments during her tenure.