Pamela Bader has lots of packing to do. After 54 years as a teacher at Lynnwood’s Beverly Elementary School, she’ll soon leave the classroom where she helped generations of children to read, write, think and embrace learning.
Cleaning out Room 2, Bader’s first-grade classroom, will take some doing.
“Her classroom has more books than the library,” said Monica McDonough, another first-grade teacher at the Edmonds district school. Describing Bader as “the most dedicated and loving teacher I’ve ever known,” McDonough added “it’s all about her students.”
As the 76-year-old Bader heads into her well deserved retirement this summer, she’ll keep the memories of gap-toothed smiles and all she learned from those kids.
“They lose a lot of teeth in first grade,” said Bader. “They’ll be all on a rug around me, I’ll be teaching, and all of a sudden it’s ‘Oh, I just lost my tooth.’ First-graders are such a fun age. Every day is different.”
Harmony Weinberg, an Edmonds district spokesperson, said records prior to 1965 aren’t searchable, so she can’t say that Bader is the teacher with the longest-ever service. “However, we can confirm that she is currently the longest serving teacher” in the district, Weinberg said.
Throughout Snohomish County, many longtime teachers will soon enter retirement after a spring unlike any other. They’ve been teaching remotely since mid-March, when Gov. Jay Inslee closed schools as part of statewide orders to curb the spread of COVID-19.
At Maltby Elementary School, 70-year-old Marie Relph is retiring after her 50-year career in the Monroe district. All but two of those years have been at the Maltby school. After graduating from the University of Montana, she spent two years at Monroe’s Frank Wagner Elementary.
Relph, a third-grade teacher, has seen big changes in students, academic expectations, and in what was once a rural place. “My first day at Maltby, the principal was chasing chickens,” she said.
In recent years, Relph said she’s had more students affected by autism. Also, more kids now have two parents working outside the home, and she sees more low-income families.
“What they’re expected to know is so much more now. There’s so much pressure on kids. Actually, there’s so much pressure on teachers,” said Relph, who lately has been teaching online from her Woodinville home. “I used to be the tech person for our building. I’m pretty proficient at it, but I don’t have good reception at my house,” Relph said. “Not all the kids have good technology. It’s really hard for these kids.”
Carissa Alexander, a paraeducator at Maltby Elementary, said Relph was teaching there when she was a student at the school. “She was teaching second grade next to my second-grade classroom,” said Alexander, 47. Two of her four children had Relph as a teacher.
“She’s inspirational. Younger teachers look up to her,” Alexander said. “She deserves to be acknowledged for everything she has done for kids over the last 50 years.”
Bader’s co-workers feel that way about her 54-year career at Beverly, where the first-grade team is dubbed “the fabulous five.”
McDonough said Bader’s former students sometimes ask if she still has “the reading tub.” It’s an old claw-footed bathtub outfitted with cushions, where kids in her classroom can climb in with books.
“She’s so optimistic and positive,” said Lynette Kelly, another first-grade teacher at Beverly. “We’ll be exhausted at the end of a day and she’s the one with all the energy,” said McDonough, who’s been at the school 27 years — just half the time Bader has spent there.
Describing Bader as “a fantastic teacher,” Beverly’s principal, Danielle Sanders, said “I don’t think there’s a student out there that Mrs. Bader would not be able to teach to read.”
“She can remember every student over all the years and still tell you all about them,” said Sanders, who’s impressed that Bader is always learning new things — Zoom included. “We’re going to miss her a great deal,” Sanders said.
Hamburger cost 35 cents a pound, Bader said, and her annual salary was $5,000 when she started at Beverly for the 1965-66 school year. She was Pam Lund back then. Raised in Mount Vernon, she finished high school in Edmonds before attending Seattle Pacific University.
Technology in 1965? “A typewriter and a tape recorder,” she said.
Bader’s interest in a classroom career was sparked by her second-grade teacher at Mount Vernon’s Washington Elementary School. “She was kind and thoughtful and never yelled,” Bader said. “She made learning fun.”
Among the biggest changes she’s seen is in the attention span of children. “I try to get to my point faster. They interact more, and I give them more breaks,” Bader said. “Teaching has changed a lot. It used to be I gave a lesson, and there were a few questions. Now the kids interact during a lesson.”
For reading, her first-graders once used a big book, a reader full of stories. Now, they have books that can be finished in a few days. “They each have a book bag, with six to seven books at their level,” Bader said.
Writing expectations have greatly increased. “It used to be a few sentences. Now they do genres — narrative, nonfiction and opinion writing. They work on opening sentences and go over rough drafts,” she said.
With math, it’s less rote memorizing and more problem solving focused on understanding how answers are arrived at.
A widow whose husband Jack died a decade ago, Bader said that unlike many teachers she wasn’t ready to retire after 30 years. “Some said they were burned out. We have a summer break, that really helps,” she said.
Bader has traveled extensively, to Europe and Asia, in the United States and on cruises. Once Room 2 is packed up, “my first goal is to clean my house,” she said. Having lived in her Edmonds home 40 years, “it’s going to take me a long time,”
And what a long time she’s spent at Beverly, where Bader she’s taught grandchildren of former students. Some who were once in her class have visited at the end of a school year. They’ve asked, “Do you remember who I am?”
For sure, they remember her.
“It doesn’t seem like 54 years,” Bader said. “I love it. I love the kids.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrate Mrs. Bader
A thank-you parade for Beverly Elementary School teacher Pamela Bader is planned for 5-7 p.m. June 24 in the school parking lot and bus loop. Bader (Pam Lund when she started at the school) is retiring after 54 years at Beverly. Participants are asked to stay in their cars, give Bader a thank-you wave, and decorate signs or bring balloons with the school’s blue-and-white colors. Hang a sign on car with the year you or your child were in her class. Cards and gifts will be collected. Beverly Elementary School is at 5221 168th St. SW, Lynnwood. Enter parking lot from 52nd Avenue W.