With the close of the 2022 school year, two Kane County School District teachers will be embarking on their next great adventure: retirement!
Marianne Leigh and Marcie Judd both of Valley Elementary, have spent a combined 60+ years of inspiring and guiding the next generations of our youth.
Leigh says she always wanted to be a teacher. “I loved working with little kids and pursued that desire at college,” she said. “My kindergarten teacher Martha Roundy played a huge role in my desire to become a teacher. She was the most kind, compassionate person I knew. Not only was she an amazing teacher but she always made an effort to reach out to me through phone calls, letters and visits whenever I would do something special my entire life.”
Leigh began her teaching career as a half day kindergarten teacher at Kanab Elementary
School, team-teaching with Leona Swallow. The following year she moved to Valley Elementary as a kindergarten teacher for 13 years and then on to first grade where she finished her career, accumulating a total of 37 and 1/2 years of teaching.
“The most rewarding part of being a teacher,” Leigh confided, “is seeing the success and growth of each student. The biggest struggle for me has been learning the digital and techie stuff they want teachers to do. It’s hard for an old ‘dog’ to learn ‘new’ tricks!” After almost 40 years of being an educator, Leigh says some of the biggest changes she has experienced are the technology, the amount of pressure the teachers feel with assessments and data tracking, and sometimes, the lack of caring towards education.”
“The most memorable experience by far,” Leigh shared, “has been the students; their hugs, their smiles and their attitudes. Every day I wake up and say, ‘I’m so glad I get to go to work today.’ I have loved every minute of being a teacher.”
When Marcie Judd was little, she wanted to be a farmer because she would spend hours in the big family garden with her Grandfather Merrill. She reminisces, “He would carry a pocket knife and salt shaker and after we spent the morning pulling weeds, he would cut open cantaloupe or melon, and let us eat all that we wanted - salt was added, if you wanted it. I remember the juice running down both sides of my face onto my chest, as I gorged myself with that delicious warm fruit.”
After taking an aptitude test with her college counselor, looking at her likes and dislikes and college credits, and knowing she’d be living in a small community, Judd decided to become a teacher.
Judd taught preschool in Kanab, after moving to the area from Monticello, Utah. She completed her student teaching in Fredonia, Ariz., with the high school English teacher JoAnn Bean, to complete her high school teaching certificate.
During her early years, while she was having children, Judd was teaching for Mohave Community College one class a semester, one night a week, for several years to keep her certificates current. She was later hired at Kanab High School by Principal Carter to teach (part time) freshmen English and public speaking. With a move to Alton, Utah, she began team-teaching with Principal Ron Taylor in fourth grade (another part-time position) for eight years and was later hired full time. Judd has been teaching the fourth and fifth grades at Valley Elementary School ever since.
Judd shares that the most rewarding part of being a teacher, “is seeing a student’s eyes light up when they catch onto a concept or to watch the personal growth, skill and confidence levels move in a positive and even impressive way. That’s the best!”
For Judd, the greatest struggle as a beginning teacher was figuring out how to manage the class efficiently and effectively without losing the connection. As an experienced but needing to improve teacher, the struggle was how to teach explicitly so students could understand the concept but still have interest and want to explore, while keeping it fun and beneficial. As an older, experienced teacher the struggle became keeping the vitality, life, zeal and drive in the day-to-day challenges. As a teacher looking back, Judd shares, “I believe my greatest challenges were getting parents to see ‘this side of the education process’. When a ‘HOME’ is troubled, hurting, stressed or worried … that comes to school with the child. They need to be ready to learn and that can’t happen if there isn’t security/safety in the home AS WELL AS in the school.”
“When I was in school, the paddle was on the wall of the classroom and it was used”, shares Judd, as she recalls how different school is now compared to decades ago. “Getting in trouble at school meant you were in greater trouble at home. School started at 8 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. All events were on Friday night or Saturday.”
“When I first began teaching, I don’t remember a push for tests, Core Standards or even comparisons to schools outside of our own school. We taught in a way that projects were the center of the units or lessons. The lessons encompassed life skills, social values, patriotism and history, honor, values, and social norms.”
“Today, I still try to teach these things - social studies, values, patriotism, but I am pushing specific content related to math, reading/comprehension, language arts, science and I incorporate science and social studies into writing, spelling and reading. I integrate many topics into others to get my contents taught in the time that I have.
“On one occasion, I was complaining to another teacher about not getting everything done that I needed to do, partly because of the constant absences, and partly because of the multiplicity of content to be taught. She reminded me of the story of someone stirring a bucket of water as fast and as well as possible but once the stick is removed, that is where it ends. As teachers, we can do all that we can do from the time a student walks into our ‘door of influence’ and once they walk out, we can do no more. So, I take very seriously my responsibilities to use my time with my students well: I am prepared, organized, ready to go. I make sure that the time I have with my students is used optimally. Now, the tender side of that is - sometimes we need to just listen. It is a balance, and it is not an easy balance to make - for anyone.“
To Judd, some of the most memorable experiences are ALWAYS when a student hugs you, when an old student returns to tell you hello and thank you, when a parent expresses appreciation for their student’s progress or when a student that struggles smiles with that “I get it” look. “All those are precious and make my day,” says Judd. “But the most memorable was the day of the spider: I had read to my class almost every day and (for a while) I kept my classroom novel in a nice cloth bag. I would always reach into the bag to draw out my novel to read to the students. One particular year, when I reached my hand into the cloth bag to retrieve my novel, I felt something strange within its material, I lifted it up to look inside the bag and a huge tarantula was staring back at me (I later realized that it was fake). Well, I screamed a naughty word, threw the bag and all its contents far away from me ... then I stopped, realized what I had said and stared into the eyes of my smiling, shocked and now giggling students. The pranksters were found, much laughter was had by all … including myself, and a letter of explanation and apology was sent home to the entire class of fourth grade that year. That was the most memorable of those I can share publicly.”
As she looks down the road to her next great adventure, Judd shares, “I have truly been blessed to be a teacher, to be in this specific Kane School District and to work with so many wonderful students and parents. I’m grateful for that gift.”
These teachers have been a gift to all who have sat in their classrooms and gleaned knowledge from their instruction. Their next great chapter is only just beginning. Happy retirement!