Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kindergarten Teacher Retires after 41 Years

On Friday, Sallisaw students spent their last day in class before the summer break. One teacher will have only one more day at school, after 41 years of teaching kindergarten at Liberty Elementary School.

Perrie Beth Weedon, Sallisaw kindergarten teacher since 1974, is retiring. Her very last day will be Tuesday when she must clear out her classroom. She was honored by her peers at a retirement reception May 4. Knowing Weedon’s preference for Oklahoma State University (OSU), the OSU mascot Pistol Pete was invited, and attended (above), the party. “It was GREAT fun,” Weedon exclaimed.

Weedon, the daughter of Roberta Farmer and the late James “Cherry” Farmer, graduated from Sallisaw High School in 1970. She went on to OSU then transferred to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah when she got her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Later she obtained her master’s degree in early childhood education and was in the first master’s class to obtain that degree.

In 1974 she began with Sallisaw Schools as a kindergarten teacher, and has stayed that course for 41 years.

“Education was important to all my family,” Weedon said. Her mother, Roberta, is the retired media specialist for Eastside School. Both Weedon’s sisters obtained teaching degrees; one taught music and the other used her degree working for the Department of Human Services.

Weedon said, “I’ve been around,” since the kindergarten class has moved several times over the past 41 years, and is now on the Liberty-Eastside Campus, and her classes have changed over the years too. Weedon recalled for her first 29 years as a kindergarten teacher, the tiny students only went to school for half a day. Weedon recalled her largest morning class included 33 students, and at one time, she had a total of 52 students in her morning and afternoon classes. When asked how to deal with that many youngsters, Weedon said, “You just do the best with what you’ve got.” She also admitted, “You’ve got challenges.”

Now days, the kindergarten students attend school for a whole day, and, ironically, this year Weedon’s class has only 19 students. “This is the first time in years that I’ve had less than 20 students,” Weedon said.

Teaching methods and student preparation have changed over the years, Weedon said. She has noticed that the most. “What the students are exposed to now is different,” she said “The children have to know more now. But not all children come to school prepared. More is expected of them now. Every child is different in their way of learning. And teaching methods swing back and forth.” But teaching methods pretty much remain the same. And successful teaching leads to awards. Weedon was named Sallisaw Schools Teacher of the Year in 2005. “That was neat,” Weedon recalled.

No particular students stand out in memory, Weedon said. They all do. It is estimated that Weedon’s total number of kindergarten students may be over 1,000, but no one’s kept count. You don’t stop caring about them after they have moved on, Weedon said.

“It’s exciting to hear about former students,” she said. “It’s fun to see them after they’ve grown up. They may not be professionals, but they may be great parents, and good citizens. Some of our teachers now are students I taught.”

Weedon reminisced, “The first all-day students I taught will graduate in 2016.” Weedon will probably attend their graduation.

She will be busy in the meantime. Weedon said she is excited about her retirement. “I am excited, but I’m not real sad yet,” she said.

She plans to spend time with her mother and her four grandchildren, ages 12, 9, 8 and 5. “They are all fun!,” she said. And she plans to spend some time on her hobbies. Her favorite is sewing. She doesn’t have a bucket list, but does have a retirement goal in mind. “I want to travel all of Route 66 in Oklahoma,” she said. “I want to start in the northeast and go all the way across the state on Route 66.”

The most important segment of retirement, Weedon said, is family. “I am gonna relax, and spend time with my family. Family is real important to me.”

More than likely, about 1,000 former Sallisaw kindergarten students believe Weedon is an important part of their education family.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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