Patricia Chester, a second grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary, will soon be closing her books on a long education career.
It started as a student growing up in Baker, graduating from the high school in 1975, going to college in Bozeman to be a teacher.
She started her career in Wibaux where she taught for two years before getting married and moving back to her hometown.
After a couple of years as a substitute teacher, she was hired by the school district as a fifth grade teacher in 1985. But a short time later she switched to second grade.
For Chester, there always has been an interest in the second grade. “I always wanted it to be second grade. I enjoy the younger kids – I like all the kids, but I really enjoy watching them learn to read and to learn and gain skills they will need for life,” she explained.
“They are just so innocent.... and it is fun to watch them. All the grades are fun, but I especially enjoy the younger.”
Second grade was also a time when she was able to watch the students go through a transformation. “By the end of the year they would start being more independent,” she said.
The pandemic brought changes to how the children were taught, she said. She said that she got tired of working through the computers. “It was more enjoyable interacting with the kids in person. I feel we were more productive in person,” she said.
Still she was glad to be able to use the computers and the technology now in the schools to at least keep teaching. “If this had happened when I was in school (in the 1970s) or when I started, we probably would have stopped teaching. So we were lucky to have that system,” she said.
The technology has been one of the biggest changes that she has seen over the years. She recalled when they had to check out movies from the state and know how to thread them through the movie projectors. She also remembered the slide shows and the filmstrips which used to be shown in classes. She has seen VCRs come and go.
Now, she has seen mimeographs give way to copy machines... and the internet have a dramatic impact on education, especially in small schools.
Now, the students and the teachers can use videos from the internet to help in class and the students can also get some additional assistance online, but one transition she really remembers was from back when she was starting and had her library endorsement. A librarian she talked to came back from a conference where an early computer was demonstrating how it could be used in libraries.
She was stunned how much it would change libraries, Chester recalled. And it did, she added.
Still, Chester admits it was about time to retire and devote more time to her husband Richard and their family, most living in Montana.
She also plans to spend more time doing hardanger embroidery. It is a form of embroidery where white thread is used on white linen or cloth which is also called whitework embroidery.
Chester still has a few more days before her last day of school (May 27) and then cleaning up the classroom.
But one thing she will be able to take with her are the memories and recalling that she has seen and taught the children of the children she had taught years before come through her classes.