Veteran Parkite teacher arrived by train in 1965
May 2, 2008
On St Patrick’s Day 1965, Kathleen Brandon and her girlfriend rode the train from Salt Lake City to the old depot in Park City. They spent the evening at Main Street watering holes, dancing and toasting the town’s rapidly disappearing mining culture. After a pizza and beer at the Red Banjo, they hopped the train back to the valley. It was a very different era.
The train service ended a few years later with the arrival of I-80 and the railway was abandoned. But Park City has been a touchstone for Brandon most of her life, and her home since 1994. In three weeks, she’ll end a distinguished career as a teacher in the Park City school system.
Brandon was born in La Jolla, Calif. Her father was a naval officer and her mother practiced medicine there. After her parents divorced, her mother moved with her three children to Berkley, Calif., where she earned a master’s degree in child guidance.
She counts among her most treasured childhood memories the many camping trips and outdoor adventures she shared with her mother and brothers. "I learned to ski as a kid, but preferred sitting by the fireplace in the lodge to schussing the slopes," she says. "I’m a summer being; I love to hike, bike and bask in the sun."
In 1958, Brandon’s mother moved the family to Utah, where she had deep pioneer roots. Brandon’s great-grandfather, John C. Cutler, was the second governor of Utah and her great-aunt was the state’s first female congressman.
"Unfortunately, that heritage didn’t make me want to stay in the Salt Lake Valley," notes Brandon.
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After graduating from the University of Utah in 1968 with a degree in political science, she moved to Ft. Collins, Colo., to become a student activities counselor. She later took a job as director of student activities at Holy Cross College in Worchester, Mass.
Brandon met and married her husband while at Holy Cross. With the birth of their daughter, Megan, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom. "I was raised by nannies and I didn’t want that for my kids," she explains. "Over the next 10 years I shifted gears to the life of a full-time mom."
In 1975 the family moved to Everett, Wash., where their two sons, Joe and David, were born. In 1983 the family returned to Utah to be closer to Brandon’s family. They divorced soon afterward and she and the children remained in Utah.
Brandon went back to work, taking a job as manager of three Nutri-Systems Centers. Her decision to become a teacher came in a surprising way.
"I remember sitting in the Nutri-Systems regional office discussing monthly goals of the stores and I all of a sudden blurted out that I thought I wanted to go back to school to become a teacher. Somehow I knew I could do it, even though I was single with three kids." From 1991 to ’93, Brandon pursued course work at the University of Utah and Westminster College, leading to her certification as a teacher in secondary social studies.
She completed her student-teaching requirement in Park City in 1993. Since then she has taught successively at Treasure Mountain International School (TMIS), Park City High School, Ecker Hill International Middle School and back at TMIS.
In 2003, Brandon earned her Master of Education degree in curriculum development and instruction from Westminster. "I needed a year off after taking my master’s, so I accepted a position as education coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Utah. I spent a year teaching about everything from contraceptives to AIDS/HIV prevention, and sparring with the Utah state legislature for funding," she says.
For the last several years she’s taught world geography and Advanced Placement human geography to ninth graders at TMIS. "I have a pretty good sense of humor; how else could I teach 14- and 15-year-olds," she jokes.
Brandon’s teaching style was formed by her lifelong passion for social justice. "I’ve always tried to teach students to be compassionate and informed citizens in this global community," she says. "We are so lucky to be here in this environment. We all need to be aware of life as it exists in other parts of the world and do our utmost to give of ourselves, our talents and resources to make the world a better place for all humanity."
Co-workers and teachers alike heap high praise on Brandon, who has won many awards for teaching
excellence over the years. She’s closing the book on her teaching career with a month-long food drive at TMIS.
"I want to bring awareness to my students about the plight of the working poor," she says. "Many people in this country are hungry and being forced to choose between buying food or buying gas for their cars to get to work. We discuss in class how fortunate we are and how privileged to be able to help."
Brandon encourages anyone who wants to contribute to bring nonperishable and, preferably, high-protein foods like canned chicken and peanut butter to Room #2 at the school through May 29. The food collected will be delivered by students to area food banks.
Brandon, who lives comfortably in her Three Kings condominium, is unsure how she’ll transition to retirement. "I know one thing for sure, though. I won’t be getting up every weekday at 5:30 a.m. anymore," she exclaims. "I’m going to sleep in until 6:30 or 7."
She describes herself as curious, always wanting to learn new things. "I love to read, travel and get involved in politics and social action," she says. Now she’ll have plenty of time to do all those things.
Park City will likely remain home for Brandon. "I essentially grew up with Park City," she says. " I can’t imagine living anywhere else. This town is in my heart."
Single, three grown children
Favorite things: concerts in the park, the jazz festival, hiking, biking, swimming and "great friends and neighbors."
Favorite foods: "Everything from the ocean and anything with cheese."
Favorite books/authors: "Feast of Love," by Charles Baxter and "The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink. "I’m currently reading ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’"
Favorite music: "Classical to rock, I love it all."
Pet peeves: "How the town has changed and the sense of entitlement that wealth brings."