Even after 52 years of teaching, Daly Elementary School Title 1 Reading Specialist Patty Holmes still wrestled with the decision to retire.
“It’s the toughest choice I ever had to make,” she said. “If I didn’t love what I do, I wouldn’t be here. I like to make a difference.”
Holmes has decided to call it a career at the end of this school year, even though she still has an immense passion for the job.
“The best part of my job is the kids,” she said. “You develop relationships with the kids. It’s all about relationships. I feel that our kiddos don’t get enough relationship time. If they don’t respect you and like you, they aren’t going to learn from you.”
1960 was a banner year in Holmes’ life. That year, she graduated from UCLA, married her husband Curtis, and got her first teaching job in Covina, Calif. She has been working in a classroom ever since, moving to Hamilton in 1971 to teach first grade at Daly School. She has held several different positions and worked under 10 different superintendents and nine different principals. Many of her students have gone on to prominent careers in the Bitterroot, and she now teaches her former students’ children and grandchildren.
Current Daly School principal Eric Larson said the school will be losing an institution and a wealth of knowledge when Holmes retires.
“She’s been teaching longer than I’ve been alive,” he said. “She’s a cornerstone. People have said that she could teach a rock to read, and that’s a good thing to have.”
Holmes spent 28 years as a third-grade teacher and a reading and math specialist at Grantsdale Elementary School, where she started one of her favorite programs, called the “Book Publishing Project.” Every year, her students write and illustrate their own books with hard covers and hand-sewn book jackets. The students learn every aspect of the book publishing business, and Holmes’ students have won many awards over the years for their work.
Holmes has three children who all went on to become successful teachers, along with four grandchildren. She said she almost retired several years ago, but decided to stick around long enough to teach one of her grandchildren, Oliver, who is now a fifth-grader at Daly School.
Over the years, Holmes was also extremely involved in the community, working for the Lost Trail Ski Patrol and working with the Ravalli County 4-H program for 20 years.
“I still go up to Lost Trail almost every weekend,” she said. “Now I’m a Mountain Host. When I went back to school to get my master’s degree in technology education in 2000-2002, the hardest part was giving up skiing because I had classes on the weekends. But I was in a class with one of my former second-grade students, Ward Lake, who is now a teacher at Lone Rock School.”
She was president of the Ravalli County Horse Council, and took the first horse judging team to Bozeman, bringing home the very first gold medal for Ravalli County.
She also participated in the first Environmental Study Camps and taught environmental studies to other teachers.
“We took 20 eighth-grade boys up Kootenai Canyon for 10 days,” Holmes recalled. “It snowed the very first day, even though it was July 1. Everybody was soaked to the bone. But we had a great time. We conducted classes in stream limnology and tree understory habitats.”
Over the years, Holmes became a summer school reading teacher for the Title I Reading Program, which is a remedial reading program, and presented seminars for the Office of Public Instruction all over the state. She also attended many national reading conferences all over the country.
Holmes has no specific plans for her retirement, except to publish her own picture books for children.
“I’ll be able to ski on Thursdays and Fridays now,” she said.
The one lesson she hopes to leave is that reading is a lifelong gift that takes special care to nurture into a passion.
“I’ve had students come to me who hate reading,” she said. “And by the time they come out, they love it and reading is their favorite part of the day. I still get some of my former students who are grown up now telling me they love to read, and they have their kids read the same books they did. Reading to kids is the most important thing. You should read to your kids every single day. My motto is ‘Read because you can!’ ”
Holmes’ website can be reached at http://www.hsd3.org/teachers/holmesp/pattydefaultpage.html.
Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.