Throughout her life, Kathy Wallace of East Marion has always been connected to Greenport schools.
Born in Greenport, she graduated from Greenport High School in 1972. After splitting her college career between SUNY/Oneonta and Southampton College, she returned home and began substitute teaching at her alma mater.
In 1986, she began working at Greenport full-time as a third-grade teacher. Five years later she switched to teaching second grade, where she’s remained ever since.
But come June, Ms. Wallace will take on a new role: retirement.
“This is my home,” she said. “These are my kids. This is my community. This is my community, this is my home and I wanted to make it better.”
She said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, and not just a teacher but one at Greenport.
In the early days of her career, she didn’t just sub at Greenport, but at other local schools as well. To Ms. Wallace, however, there was always something special about the Porters. She said students in some of her classes, which ranged from shop to boys gym, at times fixed her car and typed her application letters.
“I think we’re very fortunate here,” Ms. Wallace said. “Because it’s such a small school, the faculty really sticks together and works together. I think that makes a difference. In my life, it made a difference for my students and it made a difference for me.”
Ms. Wallace said she enjoys the second grade because of the coursework, which includes projects about different holidays, She likes Black History Month and finds joy in teaching children reading to learn instead of just learning to read.
Some of her favorite projects over the years have included celebrating the holidays around the world at Christmas time, when students bring in homemade foods representing the country of their choice. Reading “Charlotte’s Web” is another favorite activity.
Over the years. Ms. Wallace said, she took her work home with her, enlisting her three children to help find items on sale and to think of project ideas for her class. One special project was spearheaded by her husband, Robert, who died in October. At the time, Mr. Wallace got buckets of scallop shells from Southold Fish Market and cleaned each one so her students could make them into Christmas ornaments.
“It would be hard to calculate the impact that she has had upon the Greenport learning community,” Superintendent David Gamberg said of Ms. Wallace’s 30-plus years with the district. “She is a teacher’s teacher, someone who represents the best in Greenport. When we speak about ‘the Greenport family’ as a school community, we are speaking about educators like Kathy Wallace.”
“She loves children, and she provides a solid foundation so they can grow and mature,” he continued. “She has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, over a series of generations of Porters in Greenport Schools.”
That was made evident at a Greenport Board of Education meeting last month, when the board announced Ms. Wallace’s decision to retire. She received a standing ovation and many words of admiration and congratulations from former students.
One speaker, Ms. Wallace remembered, was a student in her very first class, whose son is now in her very last class.
As she prepares to end the school year, Ms. Wallace said she’ll miss the kids and the staff the most.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in this building that you couldn’t go to and ask to help you with a project or opinion,” Ms. Wallace said. “For the most part, these people are very generous. They’re generous with their money, they’re generous with their time. It’s a good family to be a part of.”
Photo caption: Kathy Wallace sits behind her desk at Greenport High School. The second grade teacher is set to retire after 32 in the district this June. (Nicole Smith photo)