Pat Ham teacher retiring after nearly 50 years in education

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, April 25, 2017

After nearly 50 years in education — more than 30 of which working with Dowagiac students — one the district’s most veteran educators is finishing up the final chapter of her career.

Patrick Hamilton Elementary’s Gloria Staten announced earlier this month that she will retire at the end of the school year in June, after 36 years with Dowagiac Union Schools.

In a resignation letter she delivered to the board of education, Staten thanked the district for giving her the opportunity to work with the children of Dowagiac.

“I feel so very blessed to have spent my career working with hardworking, loyal colleagues, who provided the best education possible for our children — Dowagiac’s most precious resource,” she said. “The Dowagiac school district’s commitment to
providing educational opportunities has allowed me to forge new educational tools, sharpen the ones I already possessed and, sometimes, remember useful ones that fell to the bottom of my educational toolbox.”

Staten, a native of Dayton, Ohio, wanted to be a teacher from childhood — she flirted with the idea of becoming a veterinarian when she was in third grade, but she was turned off once she found out everything the job entails, she said. While in high school, she was a member of the Future Teachers of America program, which gave her the opportunity to mentor younger students.

“Just like priesthood, teaching is a calling,” she said.

After graduating high school, she attended the Miami University in Ohio — the real Miami, Staten said, while clutching her red and white Miami University coffee mug — to study elementary education. It was there where she met Jerry, a member of the college football team who was studying to be a shop teacher, Staten said.

The two later married. They still receive yearly Valentine’s Day cards from the university’s alumni association for being a “Miami Merger,” Staten said.

After graduating college, Staten begin working as a substitute teacher in 1968. She subbed a couple days a week “to keep her fingers in the pie,” while raising her children.

In 1973, she and her family moved to Dowagiac. In 1981, she began working part-time with Dowagiac Union Schools once her youngest son, Andrew, entered kindergarten.

“When I think about my first class, I’m sure that some of my students have grandchildren by now,” she said.

The next year, she began working full-time with the district, landing her first position in Patrick Hamilton Elementary as a Title I reading instructor. She also began teaching fifth and second grade classes in the years that followed, before eventually settling in as a third-grade teacher at Pat Ham, she said.

In addition to the teaching children their ABCs and 1-2-3s, Staten seeks to instill her students with values they can carry with them for their rest of their lives, including being truthful, trustworthy and always trying one’s best, she said.

She has always tried to get her students to think outside the textbook as well, always incorporating hands-on activities to instruction. An example of this was on Monday, where she taught her students more about plant biology by having them dissect daffodils she gathered from her garden that morning.

She is particularly proud to have made her mark as a teacher in the Grand Old City, a town with a storied past and a commitment to education, she said.

“I tried to teach my students to be proud of where they lived,” Staten said.

With her oldest child, Holly, teaching in California, and her oldest son, Mark, coaching with the Michigan State Spartan football team in Lansing, Staten, who turns 70 this year, said she wanted to visit her family more often once she retires. However, she said walking away from teaching will not be easy, as she will miss working with her students and fellow staff members.

“Anytime you embark down a new passage in life, it is fraught with possibilities: both negative and positive,” she said.