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DALLAS When kids pick up their first instrument at L.O. Donald Elementary School in Dallas, it's Butch Arnold who is teaching them.

Butch passes along his passion for music one class at a time.

He's been teaching band at several schools in the Dallas ISD for the past 46 years.

It is a career that's now coming to an end.

I guess what I really hate right now is that the days of career teachers are gone, he said.

Across the city, another veteran educator is also saying goodbye: Butch's wife, Dolores Arnold Schmeltekopf, who teaches English Three AP at Booker T. Washington High School.

After 49 years with the DISD, she plans to retire along with her husband, accepting the district's financial incentive to leave the profession.

I can't stand the thought of not being here the first day of school, she confessed.

The Arnolds started out at South Oak Cliff High School. Butch, a professional musician, had been directing the SMU Mustang band when he took the job in 1961.

In the very beginning, you can imagine, my salary was $4,400, he said.

Dolores started at SOC in 1962. I have always wanted to be a teacher, she said. I never played with dolls; I played with books, and I had a teacher's desk, and I taught school every single day.

From teaching drama to running the registrar, Dolores saw every change through the decades as a challenge. Not many people have that dedication to stick to it and say, 'I can do better this year.'

For years, Butch was in charge of the SOC band and the drill team, traveling the U.S., winning competitions. But when he turned 40, he took a break to run his own company.

Four years later, he returned as an elementary band teacher. That's when he realized he could really make a difference.

Let's face it, he said. We spend more time with them than anybody else does and if we don't make some type of imprint on them, then we haven't done our job.

The Arnolds never lost sight of their priority.

I guess the greatest thing about teaching for me is when I see that spark that comes in a student's eyes that means, 'I got it!' Dolores said.

They remained stern and supportive year after year, and the kids have been their biggest reward.

I would have not had the chance to I hope to change a lot of kids' lives, Dolores said. It has been a great ride for me!

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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