Second-grade teacher Jeanne Palin plans exit from Grant Watts

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Palin said that every day, her former students (now in third grade) come by to hug her before class.Jeanne Palin’s second-grade classroom at Grant Watts Elementary in Scappoose is crammed full of hand-painted cardboard and papier mache animal hats, put together by her students who are currently learning about different types of habitats.

Sock pairs are also strung from wall to wall—a single sock is added each day to help Palin’s students learn the difference between even and odd numbers while keeping track of the amount of days they’ve been in school.

The bookshelves, old photos and craft projects lining Palin’s walls are testament to a career dedicated to the kids who pass through her classroom.

On June 12, Palin, 55, will retire after teaching in the Scappoose School District for 32 years.

Palin has already started the process of moving out of her classroom and is discovering it’s not an easy task.

“It’s going to be hard, I need to be able to just go,” she said.

Every year she has built lifelong relationships with the children in her second-grade class, she said. She has always taught second grade, but said she has former students come by to visit all the time.

“One kid hasn’t missed one of my birthdays since he was in second grade, but he’s graduating this year,” she said, pointing to a 10-year-old picture of the now high school student and her. “Just the other day I had an eighth-grader come by and just shoot the breeze.”

Palin’s former students often return as high school classroom aids, eager to watch their former teacher again through more mature eyes. One high school student recently came back to assist in Palin’s room because she wanted to read a book to the class Palin had read to her back when she was in second grade.

Palin said she has remained at Grant Watts for so long because she loves the age group she teaches. “You can still awe them,” she said. “Even with all of the technology today, you can still awe them with books.”

Of all the highs in Palin’s teaching career, she mentioned the team she works with, including those in the past, and the families of her students. The kids she has taught are the real standouts.

“I cherish the kids the most,” she said. “Every year I have the best class, not because they’re the best, but because they’re mine.”

Last year, Palin’s students successfully raised more than $500 selling seed balls — mud balls filled with seeds — within the community. The day she spent with her class at Scappoose’s Fred Meyer selling the seed balls was the same day of December’s shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Since Palin and her class were away from the school, they had not been informed of the day’s events.

“I could see something in the faces of the shoppers that day,” she said. “When we visited the weather station later and learned of the events, I realized that it was because people were seeing normal kids doing normal things on a horrible day.”

During national tragedies such as Sandy Hook and Sept. 11, 2001, Palin said the school has always provided comfort when emotions run high.

Palin and her husband plan on selling their home on the hill in west Scappoose so they can downsize to a smaller house and an RV. She hopes to travel to Mexico and Greece, as well as discover small towns along the East Coast after retiring.

Palin has three children and four grandchildren.

“My husband has been retired for six years. It’s time,” she said.

A public after-school retirement gathering will be held at Grant Watts Elementary in Palin’s honor Friday, June 7 at 3:30 p.m. in the Grant Watts Multi-Purpose Room.

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