Kodiak Tapestry: Teacher’s aide bids goodbye to classroom

Susan Patrick, left, and Terri Springer. (Mike Rostad photo)

What would teachers do without them? They keep track of attendance, work one-on-one with needy students, keep schedules straight, and tend to a multitude of other tasks that free up teachers to teach. And sometimes teachers’ aides do that, too.

Retiring teacher’s aide Terri Springer has been the right hand person for East Elementary kindergarten teacher Susan Patrick since 1988.

“The kids think we live together,” Patrick said.

“When they see either of us in the store they want to know where the other is,” said Springer.

“Terri was always good with ideas that I didn’t think of,” said Patrick. “She saw the side of a situation I hadn’t even thought of. I didn’t have to tell her what to do. She automatically knew what to do. Sometimes she told me what to do.”

Springer began working for the Kodiak Island Borough School District in 1983 at Main Elementary under Dorothy Studevant in developmental preschool. At the time, Harry Haney was principal.

After spending several years at home taking care of a toddler, Springer came back to the District in 1987.

Springer and Patrick have held a lot of strategy sessions, puzzled over many mysteries and laughed at many comical situations.

They chuckle over the mystery student who called himself Maverick outside the classroom. One day, the librarian came to the kindergarten class asking for him. Patrick and Springer said there was no one by that name among the students.

“She pointed to a boy and said, ‘This is Maverick.’ We had no idea that he was calling himself by that name.”

Last year a student kept calling Springer “Mrs. Summer,” confusing her with a different season.

“That was the first time in all of my years (as a teacher’s aide) that someone called me by that name,” said Springer.

A couple years ago Springer started feeling a little older when she worked with the children of former students.

“That was kind of a shocker.”

Springer said she will miss the East Elementary team including Patrick and the kids, whom she calls her “friends.”

Now that Springer is retired, she will have more time for projects such as basket weaving, which started out as a practical joke, she said.

“A girlfriend signed me up for a basket weaving class at the college. She said she wanted me to be a student in an old people’s home.”

That joke turned into a creative hobby that Springer combines with staining glass. Springer makes glass fusion baskets — bowls made out of fused glass with sea grass and other material woven around them.

The Springers’ daughter, Briana Springer, lives in the Seattle area and shares her mother’s artistic bent.

“She and I do glass mosaic fish and a variety of different art projects,” Springer said. Briana sells her mother’s wares at the October art show in Issaquah, Wash.

Terri Springer lived much of her childhood in Everett, Wash. The family moved there from California shortly after Springer’s mother died in an automobile accident.

After graduating from high school in 1975, Springer came to Kodiak at the behest of a girlfriend who worked for Brechan.

She met her future husband, Tom Springer, who was fishing with Antril Suydam.

They got married in 1977 and lived in Washington for five years. During that time Tom fished and worked on a construction crew.

Springer was employed at a brain trauma center.

The Springers returned to Alaska in 1982, living near Kenai.

When Kevin Suydam asked Tom to build a house for him in Kodiak, they moved to the island.

“At the time we didn’t know where we were going to plant ourselves. I agreed to stay for two years.”

The Springers never left. Tom owns a gutter installation business, is a general contractor and continues to fish.

The Springers operate a gillnet site on Kupreanof Strait near the Port Bailey cannery. Every fall, Springer invites her friends to the site for a girls’ weekend.

“We go beach combing; everybody brings good food.”

In the summer the Springers fish at Kupreanof with Tom’s parents and their daughter, Briana.

Their son Jonathan Springer, who lives with his family in Anchorage, comes for a visit.

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