Pam Hyde started her educational career in Illinois at one Lincoln Elementary School and soon she will end it at another.
After 20 years of service to District 90 —12 as its principal and as eight as a third grade teacher at Willard — Hyde will retire on June 30.
And she’s loved every minute of it.
“This has been an unbelievable place; people have been wonderful,” Hyde said. “You can never expect anything more [and] you’ve never seen a community as cooperative and responsive.”
It’s been quite a varied career for the 67-year-old Hyde, who aspired at one time to go into medicine. Over her 30-year career, she taught elementary school in suburban Philadelphia, moved to the Oak Park area and became a teacher’s aide at Holmes School.
Her first full-time post in Illinois was at Lincoln School in Oak Park. She then came to Willard to teach third grade. Hyde also has been an assistant principal in an elementary school in Elmwood Park and a principal in Riverside District 96. Then she returned to District 90 to become principal at Lincoln.
And she’s seen a lot of change over those 30 years as well. There’s the advent of technology and how it can advance instruction. And, of course, there are the Common Core standards, which Hyde supports as a way of enabling students to better compete with their counterparts overseas.
One area of instruction that has changed is mathematics. For years, students have learned mathematics in terms of algorithms. With Common Core they build on concepts so they understand what’s going on with numbers.
“Kids are understanding things that’ll knock your socks off in terms of understanding what numbers mean and what the numbers are doing,” Hyde said.
Bottom line, the more interesting and understandable math is, the more vested students are in wanting to continue, she said.
Kids may take well to the new way of teaching math, but it’s the parents who are falling behind. It’s become a challenge for parents to help their children with their homework.
What she will miss most are the students. When she really watched them blossom, she said, their reactions made her want to remain in teaching. At Willard, she brought in a neurosurgeon who was part of a team that removed a brain tumor from Chicory, the dominant male in the troop of western lowland gorillas at Brookfield Zoo.
The physician brought in the real brain of a gorilla and showed slides of the surgery. Instead of going “yuck,” students were captivated. They wore gloves and, by touch, learned to identify different parts of the brain.
“They loved it,” Hyde said. “When you see kids embrace something that’s very academic, it’s amazing. These are the things that stay with you, and you realize this is where you need to be.”
She’ll also miss seeing and hearing the stories, the little things that happen in the classroom, in the lunchroom or the halls.
Hyde related a couple of stories of how kids just are absolutely honest and say what’s on their minds.
Hyde recently had cataract surgery. The surgery went fine, but it didn’t go so well with the medication that had to be dropped into her eye afterward.
“I was highly allergic to it,” said Hyde, whose eye was swollen shut and cheek was bright red. “It was bad. I wore the patch for a while, because I didn’t want to make people want to run out screaming.
“I overheard one kid talking with another who said, ‘Oh Mrs. Hyde was she in a fight? Did someone hit her?’ I told the student about the surgery.”
The student replied, “Oh, I thought somebody beat you up.”
Another time, the kids were singing “Happy Birthday” to her and a student asked how old she was. Hyde laughingly said, “108.”
The student said, “I really thought you were in your 80s or 90s.”
Another student passed her in the hall after she’d gotten a haircut. He gave an approving nod, said, “Nice hair,” and walked away.
Her advice to Casey Godfrey?
“Listen. Watch what’s going on. Things are working here very well. Give things a chance before making the changes that he’d want to make,” said Hyde. “I hope he will be bring some great new things.
“Everyone helps each other here. The teachers are not self-centered here, they’re centered on kids and on the school. They are caring, caring people. It’s an amazing environment to have for a teacher and an administrator.”