The retiring workforce from the Cody School District is taking with them more than two centuries of experience in education. Countless children have been instructed by this group of talented teachers.
The Enterprise caught up with the two with the longest tenures. Gerry Scott, the music teacher at Livingston Elementary, has taught for 36 years and Patty Brus, a teacher of many subjects over the years at Cody High School, has spent 38 years in the classroom.
The following interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Cody Enterprise: Why did you teach for so long?
Patty Brus: I really enjoy my kids and I teach lots of different classes. They’re fun.
Gerry Scott: Because it’s fun. It’s a great job. First of all, my parents are both music teachers, so I was raised in a musical family. Both sides of the family. My dad’s mom was a piano teacher. My mom’s side, she was the youngest of 12, and they were all very musical.
I knew since second grade that I wanted to do something with music and would probably be a music teacher, because my parents were music teachers. When I went to high school I went through the episode that most musical people do. That was unrealistic, that was not going to happen.
It’s been fun. It’s been very rewarding. If I had to do it again, I would not have changed anything.
CE: What has been the best part of the job?
PB: I really like my relationships with the kids. I really like when you have that moment when they understand what you’re talking about, especially when they can do it independently. In foods class, they make food they’re proud of. Sometimes they go off on their own and I didn’t teach it to them. They figure stuff out, and you can see when they’re proud of themselves.
I also coached a majority of time and I loved working with my athletes and competing and watching them grow.
GS: The kids. Because I love music so much and just have that opportunity to share with them the love of music, I think most kids left Livingston enjoying it in one way or another.
Music is great for the soul and it’s what keeps us going through life. It’s important.
CE: What’s your favorite memory of teaching?
PB: It’s really hard to have a favorite memory. There are a lot of good memories. Working with kids and working with staff. I just think there would be, not a specific example, but when kids are independent and when they’re proud of their skills. Especially if they take it a step further and do something really creative.
GS: Oh golly whiz. The veterans have been really important to Livingston School. I’ve always been a patriot at heart… . Working alongside our veterans with the veterans programs, that’s been very rewarding. Just to see the looks on their faces at our youth, singing about how great America is, it just makes it worthwhile, all that they did for our country. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to do those kinds of programs.
And just kids, the ones who came back to see after all these years and say thanks. I still run into those kids, “Yeah, you were my music teacher, 30 years ago.”
CE: What advice do you have for new teachers?
PB: You’ve got to have fun with kids. We’ve had more and more pressure to do good on standardized tests and when that takes you away from having fun … Learning can be very, very high-level and productive, but it can always be fun. Over there is a tetrahedron kite. My child development kids made them and we’ll be flying them tomorrow and we learned (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics), you make a kite like that and fly it, you go have fun. What use is any of this intelligence if you can’t have fun with it?
GS: Definitely, you need to love kids. That’s first and foremost. Through all of my years, one of the most important things, you can know your stuff, in my case, I can know music. I can know everything and I can be the best musician and I can be able to know everything that kids or a person should know if they want to learn to play the recorder or play the guitar or whatever, but the first and foremost thing is relationship. You have to have relationships with kids. If you don’t, you’re blowing a lot of hot air. You’ve got to be able to connect with kids.
A relationship is huge. Once you have that, you can teach them anything. You don’t have to necessarily be their friend, but you’ve got to show them that you care and you love them.
CE: Do you have any regrets?
PB: Well yeah, like a million things, every day. I am “perfectly imperfect,” is my expression. I like to teach mental and emotional health and it’s important to tell kids we are all perfectly imperfect. Not being patient some days when you should be patient. Not explaining things correctly.
There on the wall, inside rusty bogwater and scratchy, dry branches and rough burlap, is an expression: “Grace happens here.” It’s a reminder that I make lots of mistakes every day and I need to extend that grace to my students every single day.
GS: No. I honestly, honestly, honestly can say that. Things that I would have maybe done different, I can’t even think of that. For me, it’s just been an ideal livelihood. I can’t think of anything.
CE: What will you miss the most?
PB: I used to coach seventh grade track and I got to watch them grow up. I’d have them in seventh grade track and then I’d have them in middle school volleyball and I was doing high school basketball, and then I’d have them here at the high school. I really got to know them as sixth graders and you just watched them grow up. You see where their talents and skills take them… . It’s kind of cool to see them grow up and where they’re going to go, post-secondary.
GS: I think that day-to-day interaction with kids. The one thing that has just been so neat with my job is I have all the kids. I know classroom teachers, they just have 18 kids and they really get to know those 18, but I get to have 350 every year, and I have them for six years. I get to really know them from kindergarten and watch them grow all through fifth grade.
CE: What won’t you miss?
PB: There’s things. You don’t want to pick on anything. There’s things you won’t miss. Grading finals. I’m going to do three sets of finals Wednesday, grading. I’m over it. I’d rather just talk and work with kids than sit and grade papers.
GS: All the computer work, all the paperwork. I will not miss that whatsoever. I’m sure anybody in any job would say that. All of that stuff. The fun part is being with kids and just teaching them. All the paper trail stuff you have to do, I will not miss that.
CE: What are your plans for after retirement?
PB: I’m headed to the mountains to kayak and fly fish and ride my horse. I love being outdoors. That would be the hardest part of being a teacher. You’re stuck indoors.
GS: Probably spending more time with my grandkids. They all live here. I know I am very blessed for that. My three children live here. I love seeing them and I can see them a lot more than normal grandparents who probably live elsewhere. Between that and a little bit of vacationing and camping and fishing. We’re going to Hawaii right away. Waking up when I want to. Getting coffee with my friends when I want. Mostly, it will be doing what I want when I want.
Longtime school staff retired
Linda Anderson, Sunset School, 20 years
Cindy Aune, Cody High School, 13 years
Nancy Axthelm, District office, nine years
Lisa Cappiello, Eastside School, 15 years
Karen Day, CHS, 15 years
Amy Gerber, CHS, 20 years
Charles Kirkham, Cody Middle School, 29 years
Kathryn Schaefer, Heart Mountain Academy, 22 years
Gerry Scott, Livingston School, 36 years
Alan Short, transportation, six years
Vicki Shuler, Sunset School, 17 years
Chris Wolf, CMS, nine years