Farewell to Thompson

Sophia Meagher, Staff Writer

Spanish and AP Seminar teacher Rachel Thompson left PA at the end of the first term this year after bidding a sorrow farewell to the school. Thompson, who also was the sponsor of the school’s Model U.N. Club and 2021 Teacher of the Year, is heading downtown to work as a Family Outreach Representative for VBCPS.

I am heartbroken about leaving PA,” wrote Thompson. I graduated from PAHS and have been teaching at PA since I was barely an adult, [so] the school has been a huge part of my life for 20 years.”

As a result, there is a lot she will miss about PA’s community and traditions: “I will miss SCA breakfast skits at the beginning of the year, reading names at graduation, the fun of seeing returning students at IB Grad, carpooling to Model UN conferences and hosting busy meetings in my classroom after school. 

“Most of all, though, I’ll miss the students. I’ve had the extraordinarily good fortune to teach amazing humans year after year, and I’ll miss those conversations, hard conversations, and the fun of the classroom. I don’t have one favorite memory — there are too many to count.”

The feeling is reciprocated by Thompson’s students, who all report fond memories and positive experiences in her classroom and in her clubs. Senior Jacob Ellis had Thompson not only for IB Spanish 5, but also for AP seminar. “I love Señora Thompson because she was not only a great human, but she was truly passionate about her job, her students, and the classroom environment she created. She was the bright spot in everyone’s day.”

“She is the type of teacher who wants you to think critically and quickly, who wants a fast-paced environment with perspectives everywhere and free flowing conversations and debate,” Ellis added.

Senior Kaliey Monroe, who also had Thompson for Spanish and AP Seminar, agreed that Thompson’s love for teaching made her classroom even more enjoyable. “She’s really passionate about Spanish,” said Monroe. “All of her classes are fun and engaging. She is just someone who very obviously cares about the health and well-being of her students as well as teaching them.”

Adding on to Monroe’s last observation, Ellis stated, “My favorite memories with her are from AP Seminar, since there were just 16 of us. We really all became close as a class, and she was just like a student in many ways. We told her everything about our lives and trusted her, and she reciprocated that love and trust… I will be forever grateful for my years spent with her.”

Unlike Ellis and Monroe, senior and Model U.N. member Sierra Colbert never had Thompson as a teacher. However, as a result of working with her in Model U.N., Colbert holds a great amount of admiration and respect for Thompson. “Every time we would get to our hotel, she would order pizza for the group and we would discuss our schedule,” wrote Colbert. “I remember her always making sure to demonstrate to us that at these events we were the responsible partywhatever experiences we had at the conference, good or bad, were up to us… she encouraged a lot of freedom to think critically and understand our own academic autonomy, and she did so in such a casual setting that it felt less like a classroom lecture and more like a life lesson we happened to stumble upon.”

Although Thompson will no longer be teaching, she nevertheless will be having an impact on students and their families. As a Family Outreach Representative, Thompson will “be helping to create Family and Student Voice Groups to help our community feel more connected to the school system, as well as to connect families with resources they need. The Family Engagement office is committed to working toward equity across the division, and that starts with people knowing their voices are being heard.”

For Thompson, the decision to leave was very difficult. She elaborated, writing, “This pandemic year changed so much for so many. I was no exception. My husband is in a high-risk category, so my family took the stay-at-home order seriously from the very beginning… My request to continue teaching virtually was denied, so I had to make the decision that was right for my family.”

On whether she might return to teaching, Thompson reported, “Right now, I am happy to be working to connect families with resources they need, especially since the pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges and inequities in our city. I definitely see myself teaching again at some point in the future, but want to be open to my new path leading in a different direction.”

As a message to her beloved students, Thompson wrote, “I love you! If there’s anything I hope my students learned in my classroom, it’s that they are important and amazing, and that their value has nothing to do with test scores, IB courses, or GPA. I hope to stay in touch with my former students and can’t wait to hear where their paths lead. Caminante, no hay camino… se hace camino al andar.”