“It’s been a great run. I have been truly, truly blessed to teach at Pine View during the last 33 years. I did spend my whole career there, so I’m a little biased, but I will say I would not have wanted to teach anywhere else,” Spanish teacher Patti Gerlek said over the phone in regard to her newly announced plans for retirement.
With degrees in Spanish Language and Literature along with Psychology, Gerlek wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do when she graduated from college. After working with Spanish speaking children in a mental health clinic, though, she said she stumbled upon teaching. Gerlek began working inside classrooms as an aide and, after this experience, knew she wanted to teach.
“I kind of fell into it. I didn’t grow up always wanting to be a teacher… I had my language degree already, but had to go and get my Education degree on top of that,” Gerlek said.
After spending two years teaching in New Hampshire, Gerlek began teaching at Pine View, and not without making a significant mark.
“Some of my most favorite memories [at Pine View] are from working on student productions, such as Variety Shows and Miss Pine View,” Gerlek said. “I was the founder of Miss Pine View… Some tenth-grade girls came to me and I started it with them, and for seven years I was the MC, the host. I loved doing that, getting to work with the students.”
December of 2019, she decided this year was going to be her last teaching at Pine View.
“I knew [retirement] was coming; I just wanted to make sure that I was done, that I was ready to move on with my own personal world. There comes a point, and I was told this by other veteran teachers when you just know that it is time. It’s time to make the transition out of the classroom, and that’s what I went away and thought about. And I said yes, this will be my last year,” Gerlek said, detailing her thought process on retiring.
While Gerlek is ready to retire, she was not prepared to say goodbye to her students so soon. In fact, she didn’t even get the chance to tell students about her decision in person. Instead, she had to send an email.
“In that letter, I told [students] that I was retiring. My hope was to tell [them] the first day back after spring break. Rumors were out there, and kids asked me and I wanted to be really vague because I really wanted to make an announcement about it. And for me, as a teacher, I wanted closure. I wanted to say goodbye,” Gerlek said, dejectedly. “I’m really disappointed that I won’t get to stand in front of [my students] one more time and say, ‘Buenos Dias.’ As a teacher it’s really important to have a beginning and an end, and I got robbed of that.”
Gerlek is not looking to completely stray from teaching, though, as she plans to tutor students in Spanish along with instruct qi gong and tai chi. After her initial retirement, she also plans to, of course, spend more time with family and eventually walk El Camino de Santiago (The Walk of Saint James) in Spain; she teaches her classes about the walk each year.
“I’m out of the classroom, but I am certainly not sitting in a rocking chair,” Gerlek said.
Gerlek enjoys connecting with her students beyond the classroom, often offering to listen or give advice if a student requests it. Tenth-grader Zander Moricz, who has had Gerlek for multiple years as a teacher, frequently seeks her out for advice.
“Señora G. has supported me since I came to pine view in middle school and has helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life. Over the last four years, we have established a tradition of ‘tea time,’ where I had a safe space to complain, worry out loud, and seek advice from one of the only people I can truly trust. Señora G. has never just been a Spanish teacher, without her I don’t know where I would be or even who I would be. I love her, and she has changed who I am and what Pine View is for the better,” Moricz said through a message when asked how Gerlek has impacted his life.
This statement shows just how deeply Gerlek has impacted even one student, and, further, that she likely will be remembered in the way she wishes.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who taught the full child, more than just Spanish. [These kids] are more than just students in front of me who I have to dump information into. I want to be known as someone who really cared about her students,” Gerlek said.