Art tables keep alive memory of CNE second-grade teacher Patricia Reynolds
By Dick Maloney
More than a quarter of a century later, Brittany Koester-Jones remembers the pretzels. And the bubbles.
She was in second-grade at Clermont Northeastern Elementary School and having trouble focusing on the lessons. Patricia Reynolds was her teacher.
“You know I remember one time I was not paying attention again, and she had … this thing of bubbles, and I went to play with them, and she just said ‘I told you you’re not supposed to play bubbles this time of day. You have to pay attention to your work,’” Koester-Jones remembers. “And she let me figure out actually what I had done wrong, and she gave me a reward of some pretzels, and that’s all you wanted as a second-grader, if you got pretzels, that was golden.”
Koester-Jones, who now lives in Anderson Township and works with architects and engineers on lighting specifications for projects, was one of a group who addressed Clermont Northeastern Local School District’s board of education Sept. 20, talking about the impact Reynolds had on them and the school district. Reynolds died last October from lung cancer at the age of 72.
They were officially presenting the district – specifically, CNE Elementary - with two “white tables” in Reynolds’ honor. Students can draw and write on the tables, and then erase them. Reynolds’ family, the Mays (her maiden name), bought one of the tables, and the Owensville chapter of District 22 Order of the Eastern Star bought the other. Each table cost $300.
Barb Ross, an Eastern Star member and Reynolds’ older sister, talked about the significance of the tables.
“She enjoyed teaching second-graders, and we just thought that by buying these tables that kids could use, and they’re unique tables because you can write on them and just wipe it off,” Ross said. “And the teachers are using it as kind of a carrot. In other words, if the kids have done their work and do a good job, they get to go to the special table, so they really love that. And I have a whole handful of thank you notes to show my sisters and brothers that these children have put together for them.”
One of the tables is in the room of second-grade teacher Emma Keough, a former Reynolds student.
“I can remember loving school and how excited I was to see her each day. My memories of Mrs. Reynolds are all positive and have helped shape me as an educator today,” Keough said. “Her dedication to her students and to Clermont Northeastern are an example of what it means to be real teacher, someone who puts her community and the kids within it above herself.
“As a recipient of one of the whiteboard tables, I am so appreciative. The students I work with love the table and it has served as an instructional tool as we use it to practice phonics skills and for writing. Students also love to use the table during indoor recess time to draw or play games with one another. Having a bright new kidney table is a great addition to my classroom and I want to thank those who donated it in memory of Mrs. Reynolds,” Keough said.
“It was special for me to share with my students my story of having Mrs. Reynolds and how the kidney table came to be in our room. Every day when I come into my room, that bright white table reminds me to smile and to love each student for who they are and I can do that because of the example of Mrs. Patty Reynolds.”
Koester-Jones’ emotional tribute to her former teacher had the attention of the audience at the meeting. She talked about having attention deficit disorder as a child.
“I realized was different from other kids. My mind just didn’t work like anyone else’s my age. In 1990 I entered the first-grade, and honestly, I just didn’t have an educator who wanted to invest time in understanding attention deficit disorder. I spent most of my time being in trouble mainly because I didn’t know what I would do,” she said.
Koester-Jones’ mother met with Reynolds and the two worked out a plan to make sure Brittany would get the needed help.
“I was told that I was smart, but unfortunately I could not lead a normal life because I could not concentrate enough to be successful. Could you imagine being 7-years-old and already being written off?” she said to the board.
“That all changed when I entered the second-grade. As most of you know, you don’t argue with your mother. And she was more than likely to lose at that point. She engaged with Mrs. Reynolds, and instead of taking the usual path of educators, she … became involved. So much so that she went above and beyond, and she focused less on her time and it became her and my mom … She built a curriculum that worked for both my school and my home.”
She talked about seeking out Reynolds many years later and thanking her.
“She couldn’t even remember that she did that, because she thought it was part of her job. And that, my friends, that is not only a top-of-the-line person, that is a top-of-the-line educator. Because of Mrs. Reynolds I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. Because of her, I am where I am today. Because of her, she decided that I was not a lost cause. Because of Mrs. Reynolds, I was not left behind. Because of her, I work hard every day to make sure that her efforts are not in vein.”
Ross recalled when another student crossed path with Reynolds, near the end of struggle with cancer.
“The doorbell rang and I went and answered, because I was staying with her at that time, and it was a young man, and he came in to give her physical therapy, and he came in and took her blood pressure, and she looked at him for a minute, and she said ‘Gee, you look familiar. Do I know you?’ He said, ‘Yes ma’am, you were my second-grade teacher, and you got me started off right,’” she said.
Connie Conroy, a music teacher at CNE Elementary, remembers Reynolds as a kind and gentle teacher.
“She was also a patient mentor to other teachers. I was always fond of her, and greatly missed her when she retired. Patty was just an all-around nice person to be around. I never heard her utter a harsh word against anyone.” Conroy said. “If everyone in the world could have had her as a teacher, a mentor, a friend or an example as how to treat others- maybe this world would not be so crazy. She is missed by many.”