This article originally appeared in the summer 2017 issue of Harker Magazine.
Pat Walsh is a legend at Harker. The lower school math teacher has been at Harker since 1976, first as a summer camp coach, then dorm houseparent, and is retiring this year. He’s done it all, including driving a bus, coaching sports and organizing Harker’s Thanksgiving food drive for most of his career here. Students who went through his classroom remember him forever, and it’s clear from his interview that the passion he has for teaching, for his family, for volunteer work (and, oh yes, his obsession for the San Francisco Giants) is why his students love him so dearly. Walsh’s wife, Terry, whom he calls “the rock of our family,” worked at Harker for 35 years, and their three sons, Matt, Danny and Kevin, all attended Harker through grade 8.
What is something one of your parents said that you will never forget?
My mother was a teacher, and she told me a teacher’s No. 1 job is to be an advocate for all of their students. And in order to be an advocate, one has to focus on a kid’s good qualities … and every kid has plenty of good qualities.
What was one of your funniest classroom moments?
It’s embarrassing. Years ago while teaching third grade, I let my room mom, Melody Moyer, talk me into wearing a cupid outfit for the Halloween party. The kids were absolutely howling when they saw me. Now on Valentine’s Day, we play “Pin the Diaper on the Cupid.” It gets pretty silly, and they love it.
What is the one thing in the world you would fix if you could wave a magic wand?
Childhood poverty and lack of opportunity. It breaks my heart. This is something I emphasize with
my kids, too. I believe that those of us who have been blessed with abundance have a duty to
give back to those who are less fortunate.
Where in the world are you the happiest?
Family gatherings. I love to lay low and watch my sons talking with my friends and their other relatives. I learn a lot about them just by watching. All three of them are good men and interesting people.
What’s one of the favorite things you do in the classroom?
One of the things all of my students comment on when I see them years later is the “letter.” Each year I have taught, I have my kids write a letter to themselves. The first part of the letter is a summary of their year in grade 5. For the second part of the letter, I ask them to look into the future and predict how they think their lives will change over the course of the next three years. I mail these out the week they are wrapping up eighth grade.