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Sharing Memories Of 43 Years And 4600 Students With Pamela Taylor
photo by providedWith as big a smile exiting as she had entering the teaching field 43 years ago, Pamela Taylor ends her teaching career with just over 4500 students and 500,000 miles traveled.
photo by Jean RaicheHer journey to love learning started at home and in this one room school house in Ira, Vermont.
photo by providedTraveling the nation with students and Europe and Asia, Pamela Taylor has opened eyes and hearts over her forty years of traveling with students.
Tuesday May 2, 2017
By Cookie Steponaitis
It was 1964 when the last eighth grade class graduated from the one room school in Ira, Vermont and stood proudly in front of the building for a photo. The entire graduating class of three included Pamela Taylor and she remembers that day vividly. “I was so proud to be a part of that one room school,” explained Taylor. “My parents and my teacher Harriet Kenyon gave me the gift of loving to read and it has carried me through a lifetime. I read every encyclopedia and book in the school!” A voracious reader, Taylor will consume books the way most people tackle their favorite desserts and pass that love of learning, literature and history on to her students. At the end of this year Taylor will mark the culmination of her public teaching career with forty-three years in the classroom having taught over 4600 students, mentoring numerous student teachers and teaching college classes.
While educational trends have come and gone and Taylor has been a part of developing learning strategies and programs for students in her field at state and local levels, it is the lessons learned from the one room school that have stood the test of time influencing how she approaches each child and learning situation. “We learned as a family,” shared Pamela Taylor. “We read to each other, dreamed about the places we were learning about and treated each student as an individual and valued member of the school community. We all could learn and we all learned differently and sought out any way to learn. I have always known since I was little that I wanted to teach.” When the eighth grade class trip concluded the memorable year with a visit to the Vermont State House and its magnificent golden dome, Taylor knew being a teacher was her calling and her love of history was her vehicle to reach out to others.
Taylor graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Rutland in 1968, received early admission to Castleton College, wanted to teach history and won a Senatorial scholarship so she could attend. “Our dad had passed away when I was barely sixteen and we had no money. Our mom was very supportive of us going to college and I applied for the scholarship and won it. Without that I would not have been able to go to school. It was a unique time to be in school with all the social change, the Vietnam War, Women’s Movement, Civil Rights Movement and environmental issues happening.” Taylor attended the University of Vermont from 1969-1972 and encountered many stereotypes. “I was shocked that Kake Walk was being observed on campus and I protested against that with a lot of fellow students and it was abolished in 1969 during my sophomore year. It was a time of many changes in the world and on campus. I joined the International Club, met wonderful people from all over the world and established great friendships. It was a wonderful experience for me being from a really small town in Vermont.” Taylor earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972 which was immediately followed by a Master’s Degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1973. While she loved the beauty of the west, Taylor wanted to come back to the Green Mountain State and took it upon herself to find a position. “I got literally a hundred copies of my resume,” grinned Taylor. “I wrote the Vermont Department of Education and got a list of all school districts and superintendents and I started applying to all of them. In those days every one of those letters had to be hand typed on a manual typewriter and I am not a typist so it took a long time.” As fate would have it, the phone rang at 5 a.m. one morning and Taylor was greeted with a deep voice inquiring what her philosophy of education was. The Superintendent of Schools for ANWSU may not have recognized the time difference, but he got all the answers he wanted and offered Taylor a history position at Vergennes Union High School starting in 1974.
Coming back to Vermont on Continental Trailways and Greyhound busses Taylor arrived after three days and nights of travel just shy of the start of the school year and began an odyssey that will end in June with 43 years and over 4600 students. “It truly does not seem possible that this much time has passed,” shared the veteran teacher. “It just goes to show that when you love what you do, time slips by.” A firm believer in learning by doing and the value of traveling as an incredible learning experience for kids, Taylor was a part of several educators in the late 1990’s and early 2000s that opened up doorways previously closed to public school students. Along with fellow educator Joy Minns they travelled to Ukraine and Russia and took students to places on the map that were only names to the teens. She also chaperoned trips to France and Germany. “Joy and I had some interesting experiences in our travels such as at Lenin’s tomb, on the trains across Russia and Ukraine and on the trolleys,” remarked Taylor. “Yet each trip opened up the world to our students and even to this day many of them travel the world still learning and seeing.”
Whether it is the countless novels, classic films and music, state and national work on curriculum, serving on numerous committees at school or her support of local fire departments, churches and community organizations, Taylor has spent countless hours, traveled thousands of miles and worked with many colleagues throughout her career. “I cherish my many memories,” explained Taylor, “but my favorite is having my niece Jennifer in class when she was a senior and having that senior class dedicate their Yearbook to me. It was amazing and touched my heart. Cookie Steponaitis and I have been taking students to Washington and the southern cities of Savannah, Charleston, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Jamestown, Williamsburg and Mount Vernon and beyond for the last ten years. We have toured monuments, museums, the Washington Zoo, Botanical Gardens and Arlington Cemetery and met some very talented historical reenactors portraying characters from our past. I learned how to coach kids to load and fire the cannon and we beat the all-time record at Fort Jackson and acquired a new skill set! There really are hundreds of wonderful moments from those trips as the kids experienced the past becoming alive and a part of who they are as the next generation. I have administered the U.S. citizenship test to thousands and have watched generations of teens think globally and see issues not as isolated events but as world trends. I never considered teaching to be a job-it was my calling and it has been a great ride.”
Just recently Taylor went to Montpelier to file her retirement paperwork and make June 20th the official end of her career. “No tears and no sadness,” grinned the teacher. “This is a celebration. I have had a wonderful career and can’t wait to substitute from time to time and catch up with the kids on Facebook and social media. I have not had an account while I was teaching so now I can join in and see where their paths have taken them.” While Pamela Taylor has not yet noticed that her retirement plans were posted on social media, about 300 of her past students already have. Messages bombard her with memories, thanks and stories of innovative ways to learn and always of her being the teacher who would not bend her expectations and made them come up to the level they could be at. The Valley Voice salutes all who work with the next generation and thank Pamela Taylor for always knowing that each child can learn and that inspiration and perspiration do go hand in hand.
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