The 2019-20 school year kicked off nearly three weeks ago, but for the first time since 1981, Pat Marshall of Defiance wasn’t leading a classroom.
Marshall, who spent 47 years in education, retired at the end of the last school year after spending the past 38 years as an educator at St. John Lutheran School in Defiance. Her career included student teaching at Mt. Calvary in Fort Wayne, and teaching at Luther Memorial in Cleveland, one year in Decatur, Ind., one year as a guidance counselor at Hicksville Junior High, and one year teaching at St. Paul Lutheran in Napoleon.
Now, Marshall is spending her time camping, traveling, reading, writing poetry and working on her first book “The Funny Farm,” and spending time with family and friends. When asked what helped her come to the decision to retire, said Marshall while laughing: “500 people asking me, is it time to retire?”
“I just thought it was time for St. John’s to bring in some younger blood into the school,” Marshall said. “I loved the kids, and they loved me ... I don’t mean that in a conceited way, they made me laugh and I made them laugh. I just really enjoyed teaching, it truly was a hard decision to retire. I am getting older, and it’s nice to get to spend more time with my family, to travel, write some books, and get out and about.”
The now retired educator did spend a few years away from teaching before being hired at St. John Lutheran School. During that time, Marshall taught adult education classes, umpired softball, drove a bus for one year for Northeastern Local Schools, and worked at the Defiance Area YMCA as a camp counselor and gymnastics instructor. Before being hired at St. John’s, Marshall prayed to God for an opportunity to put down roots.
“I had gone through some tough times when I taught in Cleveland, so I took some time off,” said Marshall about her two-year break from teaching. “How I knew that I still belonged in teaching was when the school buses would go by, I would cry. When I was hired at St. John’s in 1981, I was so happy to be in Defiance, in school again, and doing what I loved.
“When I came back to Defiance after spending five years in Cleveland, I prayed to God to keep me in one place for a while, and when I started at St. John’s He did exactly that,” added Marshall, who attended St. John Lutheran School through eighth grade, and graduated from Defiance High School.
During her career at St. John’s, Marshall taught preschool, sixth grade, eighth grade, and many other classes for students in grades 5-8.
In addition to teaching, she coached track and field, volleyball, basketball, softball, served as athletic director, and officiated softball and volleyball, including high school matches.
Other duties Marshall performed included: teaching outdoor education; teaching a high school Bible class; organizing, running and playing Women’s Church League softball and volleyball; advising the girls’ Revelation Dancers; being the first female lay reader at the church; serving on the youth board; ministering to youth; helping with Christmas programs; singing with a worship team and serving as treasurer of the State of Ohio Lutheran Teachers’ Association.
A graduate of Concordia University Ann Arbor, and Concordia University, Nebraska, Marshall has fond memories of her time teaching, and of the people who inspired her to become a teacher when she was in school. She admitted that during both good and bad times, “God had my back.”
“When I taught, I loved to tell the kids stories to make them laugh, I don’t know how many stories I have about getting the kids to laugh, but it was a lot of fun,” said Marshall. “The Lord put a calling on me, and for Him to help me fulfill that calling (said Marshall with tears welling up in her eyes), it was special. I don’t know how many kids I’ve taught over the years, but I loved them, the families, the people I worked with ... it was an amazing experience.”
Marshall was visiting family in Tennessee when the first day of school arrived this year, a trip she purposely took at that time to be gone that day.
“I had mixed feelings on that day, I was excited for the new teachers to get started and for the kids to have some new experiences, but I also knew that I missed it,” Marshall said of the timely late-summer vacation. “Some of the parents told me that their kids missed me, which was very nice, which makes it hard. There have been moments it hits me, but what I’ve found so far is that I’m very busy. Other retired teachers told me I would be, and they were right.
“My mom, Mary Shinnaberry, was a big influence on me, as were my family and close friends,” added Marshall. “But first and foremost, I have to give credit to the Lord, who constantly shows me the value of love, life and relationships. I can’t say enough about how the Lord has guided me in my life, with the people he’s put in my life, and how He’s shown me that laughter is the best medicine (Proverbs 17:22), and that love conquers all (1 Corinthians 13).”
On the cover: Former St. John Lutheran educator Pat Marshall (left), is shown teaching students at a white board at the school. After 47 years in education, including 38 at St. John Lutheran School, Marshall is easing into retirement.