Long-time teacher retiring this year

By: 
Chad Smith

Rushford-Peterson second grade elementary teacher Patty McAllister is calling it a career at the end of this school year. She’s spent all but two of her years as a teacher in the Rushford-Peterson school system. The end of the school year is very busy for teachers and McAllister said because of that, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that she’s done after this year wraps up.

“It’s a good feeling to be getting ready to head into summer,” she said. “The end of the year is really busy for teachers so I’m not really there yet as far as figuring out what’s coming next. I don’t think retirement will really sink in until this fall when I’m not coming back to the school. After these many years, it’ll be a big change.”

McAllister, a native of Wausau, Wis., credits at least part of her long career to her parents. “I probably got into teaching because my parents were both teachers,” she recalled. “I really enjoyed working with children. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, getting both my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree.”

 Before settling into teaching in southeast Minnesota, McAllister spent the first two years teaching special education, reading, and art in Iowa. Following her Iowa experience, McAllister moved to the Rushford School district (which became Rushford-Peterson in 1989) when her husband worked for the Heilman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wis.

 “I’ve gotten the chance to teach different subjects and different levels over the years,” McAllister said. “I feel really lucky that I’ve had the chance to spend many of my years teaching second grade because it really is my favorite age level of kids. I really enjoy this age and how every year we kind of become a ‘school family.’”

McAllister says when you teach in a school for this long, you really get a chance to get to know a lot of different families in the community. The interesting thing for her is getting the chance to teach another generation of students.

“A lot of the kids I had in class this year, I also taught their parents as well,” she said. “I’m not sure of the exact number but I think I taught eight of this year’s group of parents when they were in school. I even took the time to pull out some pictures of when the parents were in second grade back in the day. That was kind of fun.”

One of the biggest challenges in teaching is time. More specifically, it’s the amount of time that teachers put into planning. McAllister said there are so many decisions teachers have to make on a daily basis before kids even walk through the classroom door.

“When you have little kids in the room, you always have to keep things moving and ready to go,” McAllister added.

Teaching is similar to a lot of other professional careers because technology has really had an impact on how kids are taught. It wasn’t too long ago that the new technology in today’s modern classroom didn’t exist.

“It wasn’t even that long ago that we didn’t have computers or smart boards in the classroom,” McAllister recalled. “We were just using chalk and writing on chalkboards. Smart boards are an amazing teaching resource to have in class. Now, I couldn’t imagine not having it. You get used to it, the technology is wonderful, and it’s a little strange to go back to the way we used to do things when the technology goes down.”

She doesn’t have a lot of definite plans for her retirement. McAllister does know she wants to stay busy. She is planning to do some kind of part-time work, as well as biking, kayaking, and playing tennis. There may be some traveling and volunteer work in there as well.

“I’ll miss everything about this when I retire,” she added. “I’ll especially miss working with the kids, as well as with their parents, the school staff, and just having a job that I enjoy going to every day. I’ll miss the routine of the day. This has been my professional purpose for a really long time.”