Hope School’s Only Teacher Retiring After 10 Years
By Jeannine Stafford-Jabaay
Late into the night, long after the students have gone home for the day, Patricia Truesdell sits grading papers for her two twelfth grade students. When she finishes this task, she will move onto adding comments to the sketches turned in by her lone kindergarten student. “Well done,” she scrawls in the column of a document.
For 10 years, Truesdell has been at the helm of the leadership and changes of the little Hope School. For several years, the student count was up high enough to merit a second school teacher. But with the number now at only 17 kindergarten through twelfth grade students, Truesdell has been the singular teacher for the entire community. Now she is set to retire at the end of this school year.
“I prayed about it most of last summer before I made my final decision,” shares Truesdell, lovingly called Ms. T by the entire town. “I love the community and students so much, I felt I could easily just keep going. But it really wasn’t fair to my family or even the students.”
With her primary residence in Soldotna, Truesdell commutes to work every Monday morning. She has stayed in various different local homes in Hope during the week. Then she makes the trip back to Soldotna every Friday. Often, the road conditions are very poor, which can make it extremely difficult to get to school on Monday morning. Sometimes she hasn’t been able to return home at the end of the week.
“I actually totaled my car on Mile 12 of the Hope Road on my way to school,” she shares. “My friend, Willie, came to my rescue.”
In her ten years as the school’s teacher, Ms. T has most certainly left her mark on the young lives of her students.
“What I remember most about Ms. T is her energy,” shares Chloe Jabaay, a former student at the Hope School. “She was always putting on events and cheering everyone on. She made us all feel like we could do anything.”
“Ms. T is everybody’s family,” states Jess Hogan, the Secretary of the Hope School. “She just cares about everybody. She has a huge heart, and she will be missed. The community will miss her.”
“Change is good,” says Truesdell. “A younger teacher will bring new ideas and energy. My family is ready to have me home.”
Truesdell’s story is one of great inspiration. She worked for 22 years at the hospital in Soldotna. It was in her 40’s that she decided to return to college to obtain her Certified Teaching degree. It wasn’t until 2002, when she was 50 years old, that Truesdell began teaching in her first classroom at Kenai Middle School. Truesdell came to the Hope School in February of 2009. And now, just over ten years later, she is retiring in her 60s.
Truesdell plans to stay very active in her community and in the legislature. “I have many plans and expect to get into a lot of mischief,” shares Ms. T, “and they don’t include a rocking chair by a fire! Maybe I will take a couple of college classes or write a book about a woman who taught in a small, beautiful place called Hope for ten years. Maybe there’s a book or story there that I could write.”
Truesdell has four children – three who still live in the Soldotna area, and she currently has 14 grandchildren. “Retiring from the school was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Truesdell says. “I still love what I’m doing. I love teaching. Because I started later, I feel like I could keep going. At some point in time, though, you have to make a decision that’s right for your family. Teaching at the school takes a lot out of me, even though I really do love it.”
“I am glad that I came on board this year so that I could have a chance to meet her and work with her,” says Hogan, who started at the school this last fall. “I am still continually impressed with the staff and their ability to teach so many things for a K through 12. That’s a big thing to do!”
Ms. T’s retirement party is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on May 3 at the Hope School. Light refreshments will be served with the cake cutting at 3:30 p.m. The entire community, previous students and their families are welcome to attend.