By Thea Skinner
Triplicate staff writer
Del Norte County Unified School District teachers and employees, whom attended local schools, left for a college education and returned to the community are retiring this month.
These district employees and teachers are leaving the future of local education in another generation's hands.
One such retiree is Patrick Finley, principal of Del Norte High School.
"There are a lot of people teaching that went to school and grew up in this area," Finley said.
Though principal of the high school for two years, he has 36 years of service in the district.
Finley began his career as a fifth-grade teacher in the 1971-72 school year at Smith River Elementary School. He taught at Mountain Elementary School in Gasquet from 1979 to 1985. He also was principal at Joe Hamilton Elementary School, Crescent Elk Middle School and Redwood Elementary School.
"It was the philosophy of the district to get different opportunities at different schools," Finley said.
Born and raised in the community, he attended Crescent Elk Middle School from first through eighth grade. Finley graduated from Del Norte High School in 1965.
He began his college career at the University of California at Davis and transferred to Sacramento City College, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in psychology. Finley gained his teaching credentials at Humboldt State University along with a master's in education administration.
Among the many highlights of Finley's career, he recalls the dedication of the Redwood Elementary School gym.
"The drive was an entire community effort," he said. "It is a beautiful gym. All Redwood had was a small multi-purpose room for indoor athletics. It really took off. We got the ball rolling and got it done."
A basketball marathon is held annually at the gym and was first established when the facility was created, Finley said.
"I remember taking classes on trips to state parks in Redding and to San Francisco to see the Exploratorium," he said. "At Smith River we hiked from the school to Jedediah Smith State Park and camped. It was good to get them outside and have them appreciate where they lived."
His parents and older brother live in the community.
"My younger brother teaches sixth grade at Mary Peacock," Finley said. "This district has been really good to me. I will miss the kids the most."
He plans to retire in the community and travel.
"I will find things to do. This is home for us and we will continue to make it our home," he said.
Redwood Elementary School teacher Dan McClure will retire after 35 years of service. He started teaching the fifth grade then moved into sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade math.
McClure graduated from Del Norte High School in 1966. He attended a junior college and graduated from Sacramento State University majoring in history.
"In a small school like Redwood, having my own children in my class" is memorable, McClure said.
His sister and daughter-in-law along with one of his two children are teachers. McClure's wife teaches at College of the Redwoods.
"I have coached volleyball and basketball throughout the 35 years," he said. "I get involved with the kids and try to keep it fun - also for myself."
After retiring, he will stay in the community.
"We moved here when I was 6-years-old," he said. "My father was a logger, and mother worked as a secretary for the school district.
"For 35 years I never thought I was going to work. I thought I was going to school."
Lynne Wood, a reading coach at Joe Hamilton Elementary, will retire after 25 years of service in the district. She also graduated from Del Norte High School and attended Humboldt State University, earning a master's in speech pathology and ideology.
As a reading coach she works with other teachers.
"It is fun being a support for the teachers, she said. "Our school took on a reading first grant. We were all working to get the reading program in place."
The reading program began three years ago.
"Changing laws and parent awareness have brought in more people to work," Wood said.
In 1975, when she began her career, she was the
See RETIREES, B2
only speech therapist in the community. At this time there are about four or five, Wood said.
In addition she taught swimming lessons at the local pool.
For five years she taught speech therapy for all schools in the county. For eight years she was an aid in special day class, which is a type of special education. In addition, for 14 years she taught fifth, fourth, and third grades along with kindergarten.
"I will continue to work for the state by training teachers in how to use the state adopted reading program," she said. "I am not quite ready to hang it up. I feel that I have a lot of skills I need to share."
"There is not a finer group of educators and staff that I have worked with. They are exceptional. Go Sea Otters!" she said.
Wood says she hopes that locals will continue to work in the teaching field in the community.
"There is a projected scarcity. I noticed this year that they are giving preference to people that went to high school here," she said.
Why they come back
Richard Holley, director of personnel for Del Norte County Unified School District, is helping lead efforts to cultivate educators through seasoned teachers for the community.
"We encourage them (young adults) to apply through articles in the newsletter. The school district is one of few areas people can come back and work," he said. "We know there is going to be a tremendous shortage in teachers in the next five years, so I encourage the staff to talk to young adults.
"Occasionally children that grew up locally will teach elsewhere and come back."
Holley says he believes the local nature and the tire of an urban lifestyle drives young adults back to the community.