Longtime Camas School District teacher Gail Welsh is retiring after 42 years.
Last week, co-workers, friends and families bid her farewell at a party at Skyridge Middle School, where she teaches fine arts and leadership. Welsh has also taught the talented and gifted program, and has always worked with middle schoolers.
“I love middle school kids,” she said. “They are wet cement, they are still very willing to be molded.”
Welsh’s favorite saying is, “Teaching middle school kids is like tying to nail jell-o to a wall.”
Last week, more than 150 co-workers, administrators, family members, and current and former students attended her retirement party.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I’m going out under great conditions, but all of these guys are like family to me.”
Always one to lighten the moment, Welsh added, “I love teaching, but I wanted some flexibility of a schedule, so I don’t have to eat lunch at the same time every day.”
She won’t cool her heels for long though.
“I love to teach about brain research,” she said. “It fascinates me. I have a few possibilities of teaching at the college level and doing some subbing.”
There were plenty of jokes, laughter and fond memories shared.
“This is just amazing,” Welsh said. “I love Camas. I live in Vancouver, but I’ve always had my feet planted firmly here.
“I love the sense of community and all the terrific things we’ve been able to do.”
Connie Pappas, Skyridge library/media specialist, said Welsh’s retirement was bittersweet.
“I’m so happy for her because she can go and pursue other things of interest,” Pappas said. “But I don’t know what we’ll do without her. She has this seemingly telepathic ability about what I need for the news show we do here.”
Pappas recalled one time where she was putting together an in-house announcement about the anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption, and needed a prop to go with it.
“Then, Gail came in with her jar of ash,” Pappas said. “She’s just amazing, and has an intuitiveness I’m going to miss.”
Hannelore Tweed, a Camas High School teacher, has known Welsh for 10 years.
“Her retirement is going to leave a void for Skyridge and the Camas School District,” she said. “She is well loved and respected in the entire Vancouver area. She has saved so many children.”
Tweed added that she was happy for Welsh.
“She gets a chance to explore other avenues,” Tweed said.
Nadia Hagen, a administrative assistant at Hayes Freedom High School, said Welsh is a fixture in Camas schools.
“She’s always been here and she will be missed,” Hagen said.
When asked what the best part of her teaching career has been, Welsh’s reply was that she always ends up being, “nicely amazed.”
“I’ve never really had a bad day in my 42 years,” she said. “Just when I lose hope, something happens.”