This past week has been an awesome one for me in so many ways. Although most of them have been for personal reasons, it still goes back to my career and my previous life as a teacher and a principal, and as a mother.
In the early 1980's I taught third grade at Patterson Elementary School in Gilbert. I had previously taught special education in the district. I have always loved Arizona history and so much of the early history took place in southeastern Arizona where I grew up. In addition, Arizona's economy for many, many years was tied to the copper industry. Growing up in Douglas, I was immersed in the copper industry as Phelps Dodge was a major part of the economy down here. In fact, I was able to go to ASU for four years because I was able to work at the smelter here in Douglas during the summers and during vacations and the pay was great.
My great grandparents moved to Bisbee in 1903. Both of them were from Ireland and my great grandfather, Matthew Roughan, was a miner. He moved to Bisbee from the silver mines in Leadville, Colorado. My grandparents, Katherine Roughan Scott and Edward Scott were married in Leadville in 1902. They moved to Douglas, Arizona in 1912 (the year that Arizona became a state) as my grandfather was a conductor on the Southern Pacific Railroad. So our family history is steeped in the history of Arizona.
As a result of this love for my roots, I wanted to share this history with my students. So I started taking my third graders to Bisbee and Tombstone. We spent the first day in Tombstone and then spent the night in Bisbee at the high school gym. The next day we did the mine tour. I was the first teacher in Gilbert who took a class on an overnight field trip and I remember having to go before the Board to ask permission. I did this trip for 10 years and it was an incredible experience for my students and did so much to build community in my classroom.
I remember when Kartchner Caverns was discovered, but not yet opened. My plan was to have my students experience this also. But then I became an administrator and no longer was able to do this trip.
One of my wonderful teachers at Gilbert El started taking her students on this trip a few years ago. Cameron was in Mrs. Dawn's class and was able to have this incredible experience. And of course, she added Kartchner Caverns to the trip, as well as the Arizona/Sonora Desert Museum. Kerri did her student teaching with Dottie and had the opportunity to have this experience.
So this year when I moved to Douglas, I checked with our policy down here and it was possible for the students to stay at one of our schools.
Last week both classes had their field trips. The kids and parents were able to stay at Ray Borane Middle School which is a block from the house. It was the original high school and has a big gym which is much like the one in Bisbee. I had all of the kids over both nights for bean burros, salsa, and hot dogs. It was so much fun!!
My high school friends, Susan and Elsa (and their husbands, Brian and Jesus) came to help serve both nights. We had about 30 kids and 20 adults in the backyard. What was so funny was that the kids loved jumping into our "home made pool." Lucy and Diego were in their glory!! And Teresa loved every minute of it!! One of the funnier moments was when Brian heard a couple of the Gilbert El kids talking about Lucy and Diego. They were commenting on how protective the pugs were of me. However, one of the kids insisted that they were not pugs, but were PIT BULLS! Lucy and Diego are as far away as any dog could be from a pit bull!
I am so proud that Kerri has carried on this tradition. I was so proud of how she told her kids and parents about the house here in Douglas and her heritage and family roots! Her class came Tuesday and so we had a sort of "rehearsal" for Wednesday when the Gilbert El kids came.
I was so EXCITED all day Wednesday for the arrival of the kids. I cannot express how important this was to me. I have mentioned previously about not having any closure to my 20 years at Gilbert El.
Everything was ready for dinner and I was just waiting for the call from Dottie. When she called and told me they were about 10 minutes away, I went out and waited in the front yard. I could hear the bus coming down the street before it arrived.
And the hugs from the kids and parents brought tears to my eyes!! I know that I was so excited to see the kids, but what meant the most was that they were so excited to see me!! It reinforced my feeling that being an elementary princiPAL was truly what I was. It has always been my belief that the role of a principal is to ensure the best for the students in every way possible. I never wanted my students to be afraid of me, but I always wanted them to be respectful of my position. I believe that discipline must be "taught" and not necessarily be just a "consequence." This was reinforced when I talked to a young man who I saw a lot over the last few years for his behavior choices. When I asked how he was doing, he told me he was doing good. He then told me that he always knew that no matter what happened, he always knew that I cared about him. We both were a bit teary during that conversation. He had come into the kitchen while I was getting something and we had a chance to talk privately. I gave him a big hug, which was reciprocated. That conversation meant the world to me!!
I love my new position down here in Douglas. I feel as though I can do some things that will make a difference on a whole different level. However, being an elementary principal is absolutely the best job in the world!! I could never imagine a better experience than I had those 20 years. I am blessed to have been able to be a part of shaping the lives of so many young people who are the future of our country. WOW!!!