Retiring teacher Nancy Partch has been working with Redwood's first and second graders since 1973, and said, "It has not been a job for me; it has been my life."
Growing up in Sanborn, Nancy Partch had a choice to make – to become an educator or a secretary, as those were the traditional jobs offered to women when she graduated in the late 1960s.
“I have always liked kids a lot,” she said. “So I chose teaching.”
Partch headed north to Bemidji, which she said was known as a teaching school, and she earned a degree in elementary education with minors in music and art. She walked out of college in 1972 and began teaching.
“My first job was in Currie,” she said. “It was a first and second grade combination classroom.”
Partch said those were the “cutting years,” and as a result she was only in her first school for a year before she was looking for another job.
That is when she arrived in Redwood Falls to teach first graders at the local elementary school.
“I started here in the Fall of 1973 and have been here since,” she said with a smile.
For the next 20-plus years, Partch taught first graders, and in 1996 she went back to the combination class – teaching first and second graders together for about five years.
Then she spent three years teaching second graders before ending up back with the first grade program in her final years at Reede Gray Elementary School.
Partch has decided at the end of this school year to retire after 41 years in the classroom.
“Education has been a good fit for me,” said Partch, who said she enjoyed teaching the younger students at the elementary school level because of the excitement and enthusiasm they brought to school each day. “I have never regretted being in this profession. It has not been a job for me. It has been my life. I have been able to do what I love.”
Over the four decades Partch has been in the classroom, she surmised there have been more than 800 students who have learned under her guidance, with hundreds more being impacted.
Partch said it is always fun to see those students who have left her classroom return, and she admitted on more than one occasion someone asks her “Are you still teaching?”
Looking back at her time in the classroom, Partch said some of her fond memories are those times when she has been able to sit down in her chair and share a story with her students.
“I am a storyteller and enjoy telling them to the students. I then can bring stories from my own life into them,” she said, adding that often opens up the conversation for the students to tell stories of their own.
When Partch first started teaching she said there were more opportunities for teachers to pick their own curriculum, but as the years have gone by things have changed.
Today, she added, so much of the classroom time is focused on getting students ready for tests that much of the hands-on learning has been set aside. That, she said, is unfortunate, because many students learn best through those interactive activities.
Partch said she has decided now is the time to step aside, adding she said when she made the decision she just knew it was the right time.
As she considers her first days away from school, Partch said she knows she is going to miss the kids.
However, she has plans to do some traveling and to do those “to do” items she has not been able to complete because of her busy schedule.
Partch said she enjoyed putting on plays every spring during some of her early years in education and said the kids really liked the reading loft that was built in her classroom.
The opportunity to help students get ready for the rest of their days in school was a task Partch took very seriously, and she enjoyed every year she had with the kids.