Ford’s Fond Farewell
Western Garfield County Staff
NEW CASTLE ” Linda Ford left her math classroom at Riverside School for the last time Tuesday. After a total of 33 years of teaching ” 22 years at Riverside ” Ford is retiring. Wal-Mart has also recognized her as one of its teachers of the year.
Each year, associates at Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart select a local teacher of the year from nominations. The teacher wins a $1,000 education grant, a $50 shopping card for school supplies and an honorary Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year vest.
Ford said she knew she wanted to become a teacher when she was as young as 5.
“It seemed to be in me,” Ford said. “I believe there are some things that are just in people. My family is really medical, and I always figured I do something like that. … It’s still service. It’s still people.”
Ford grew up in a big family in Long Island, N.Y. Her 100-percent-Irish mother was a nurse, and her 100-percent-Italian father was a doctor. Ford was the third of six kids and the oldest girl.
“I grew up with family,” said Ford, 56. “I grew up with so many people surrounding me all the time. We always had a house full. There were always people there, and I was always taking care of people. I must have developed some leadership skills there.”
Education was always very important in Ford’s family. Her father died when she was only 12, but her mother, who raised the six kids, made it clear she expected all of her children to finish college. Ford went away to the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. She later earned a master’s degree at California State University at Northridge.
She never planned to be a math teacher. Garfield School District Re-2 hired her as a reading teacher 28 years ago.
“They asked me to teach math. I said I would, and I really liked it,” Ford said. “Math is good.”
Ford said she’s had great success as a math teacher because she doesn’t just teach math. She said she also helps her students relate to one another, and teaches them important life skills such as time management and taking responsibility seriously.
“I listen to them, and if there’s a problem, I’ll deal with it,” Ford said. “I’ll deal with one person, with the family, with an issue between students. They really die for that. They really want to be heard. If you give that respect to anybody, it will be well-received.”
Ford said she also works a lot with parents and believes that communication is pivotal in a student’s success. Ford thinks of her students as young adults. In the final years of her career, she taught primarily eighth-graders. She said she doesn’t think of them as children.
“The things that probably make me stand out are that I really want every one of my students to succeed,” she said. “I make them work hard, and they’ll bellyache about that in the process, but they have a great appreciation for it afterward.”
Ford started to teach the children of former students in the latter part of her career. She said she knows a lot of people in the community, and they know her. She said she can see it in their eyes when they recognize her, even if she doesn’t always remember their names.
Ford has kept a yearbook from every year of her teaching career. She’s had thousands of students.
Naturally, Ford is battling the emotions. “This is it. This is my first night going to bed thinking it’s something that could very well be over. It’s not just summer.”
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