After 44 years, Jeremy Ranch Elementary School teacher says goodbye to Park City
Patti Davis says, despite retirement, her passion for education is still burning
May 23, 2017
For years, Patti Davis has watched Park City grow up from a unique vantage point — her perch in a first-grade classroom.
Now, after more than four decades, she's saying goodbye. Davis, who was the only first-grade teacher in Park City when she joined the school district in the 1970s and has shepherded thousands of students through her classroom, is retiring at the end of the school year.
Sitting in her empty classroom at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School at the end of a recent school day, she said she will miss the profession because, as far back as she can remember, it's been a part of who she is. When she was young, Davis and her friends would create pretend schools in their basements, and she knew even then she was destined to teach.
Forty-four years of work made it clear the real thing was even better than what she imagined as a child. So after her final day of class June 9, walking away will be difficult. She said her heart is still in teaching, even if her head understands it's time to retire.
"Rather than me going away, I think education is going a little bit away from me," she said. "The main thing is technology. I can do what I need to do with the technology, but I'm not innovative with it. That's where it's going and that's what the kids need. They need to know how to use it in new ways. I think that's a brain I don't have."
Nonetheless, she still finds joy in the day-to-day life of a teacher. More than anything, she enjoys analyzing and creating new approaches to connect with students she's not reaching. She describes the moment she breaks through to them, and they read a sentence or correctly solve a math problem, as being "just like magic."
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"That's the most work but it's the best part," she said. "There are endless ways to keep presenting something, so what do I do when a particular child isn't responding to the norm? You invent and you create."
Amid the myriad happy memories Davis will take with her, though, is one regret. A major shift in education between when she started and now is the amount of support schools give students who are struggling to learn. In recent years, she's watched those students flourish with the help of the additional aid, but lamented the students in the past who didn't get the same opportunity.
"Now, I have several children who we would have called disabled in the past that are functioning wonderfully," she said. "Everybody's got their own timeline. They may not be on the same timeline as another student, but growth is happening every day. And we used to leave them out. It breaks my heart to think of the potential we didn't get to because we thought we were doing the right thing."
How struggling students are handled is not the only thing Davis has seen change throughout her career. She said she has been around long enough to watch educational philosophies die off only to return decades later, and students she taught years ago have become parents and grandparents. But the town itself has undergone the biggest transformation. Davis joined the district when Park City's lone elementary school was located in the Marsac Building and recalls students trick-or-treating down Main Street on Halloween and how the community would rally for school events like art festivals.
While the district now comprises four elementary schools — with another proposed for fifth- and sixth-graders — and the town has grown in ways few in the '70s could have imagined, the community atmosphere is one thing that remains.
"One of the things that I've really liked is that, both within the district itself and also the community, everyone really supports education," she said. "Education is important to people here. And I've taught where it isn't. It's not to say there aren't difficult situations — people struggle and people have difficulty learning sometimes — but the fact that there's always somebody that's going to try to back you up is wonderful. They're very willing to give up their time and resources, anything they can, to make it a better district."
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