CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Custodian Paula Jackson has been working at Westview Elementary in Champaign for over twenty years. Now, she’s planning for a life after retirement — but not without a proper send-off.

Before she left, she had a surprise waiting for her. Two co-workers planned a celebration Jackson will always remember: a giant retirement party.

“I was shocked to see all the old faces, all the old staff, all the new staff. I was just really happy and it was outstanding. It brought tears to my eyes,” Jackson said.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Office Manager Mia Glover Cousett said. “We started two months in advance to get everything ready, getting friends and family members connected.”

The event was meant to show their appreciation for a woman that has gone above and beyond in the Westview school.

“She’s poured her sweat and tears into this place, worked long hours before school and after school,” Cousett said.

Teacher Assistant Sharee Tanksley said they did this because Jackson is always there when you need her.

“She’s been like a mother, almost, to some of us without a mother, and grandparent to some of us without a grandparent.”

Jackson has also been a foster parent since 1993. She has fostered more than five children.

“I was a loving, caring person to the staff, to the kids. I tied shoes, I unzipped coats, I looked for this,” Jackson said. “I did everything a mother would do for a child.”

Jackson said the first thing she’ll be doing is sitting back and relaxing. After a couple months, she said she may be interested in opening up a daycare.