Friends, Family Gather To Honor Retiring Teacher

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Friends, fellow teachers and family of Gloria Joe gathered Saturday evening Pine to honor one of Payson's most celebrated teachers.

Gloria Joe, a Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade science instructor since 1980, retired last month.

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Payson High School math teacher Hallie Kinnick was among those to praise retiring Rim Country Middle School teacher Gloria Joe (seated) at a retirement party Saturday in Pine. Listening to Kinnick, is Carolyn Fruth (left) and Wendy (Joe) Pederson.

Among those present at the celebration were Joe's daughter Wendy Pederson, now of Vancouver, Wash. and son Michael of Scottsdale. Wendy's spouse Brian and Michael's wife Desiree also attended.

Former principal, Bill Lawson, who first hired Joe at what was then Payson Junior High School, also was present.

Payson High School science teacher Joe Schmidt, a student teacher under Joe, thanked her for helping him get is start in public education.

After an opening prayer by PHS teacher Dennis Pirch, all who were present took turns expressing their fondest memories of the venerable teacher, including a throng of teachers at Payson elementary schools, RCMS and PHS attended to express their well wishes and gratitude.

Most remembered her as the dedicated educator who wasn't afraid to speak her mind, stand up for the rights of fellow teachers and challenge students to do their best.

The most emotional few moments of the evening was when Wendy read a script she had authored about her mother and what it was like being a student in her science class.

The evening, Joe, said "was the perfect way to end a career. I didn't want a retirement party, but if I hadn't had one I wouldn't have gotten to hear all that."

One of the highlights of Joe's teaching career was in 1990 when she was named a Walt Disney American Science Teacher of the Year and invited to Hollywood for an awards ceremony emceed by actor John Voight.

After being selected for the award, television crews visited Joe's classroom for a day of filming her working with students.

At the Hollywood ceremony, a six-minute clip of that day was shown to the audience and later broadcast on the Walt Disney television channel.

She remembers the entire experience as dream-like and an heralded event.

In 2001, she received was named Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year and given a $500 gift certificate. She used it to purchase fellow teachers classroom equipment not available in the usual school budget.

She is a two-time winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math Teaching and also has been the Arizona Science Teacher Association Teacher of the Year. She served a term as the president of the Arizona Science Teacher Association and was a 15-year member of the ASTA board of directors.

Her efforts have earned the school several grants, the largest of which was for $12,000 from the GTE corporation.

Over the years, she was invited to attend several science institutes including the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Princeton University. She also was chosen for institutes at the University of California at Berkeley, Miami University in Florida, San Jose State and San Diego State.

Joe is a 1962 graduate of UCLA who's first teaching job was at King Junior High School in Los Angeles.

She and her husband, Victor, eventually moved to Dubuque, Iowa where he attended Presbyterian Church seminary school.

From there, they relocated to Honolulu, where Victor headed his first church and Joe was a full-time mother of the couple's two children.

Victor's work eventually took them to San Diego and to Payson in 1976.

In retirement, Joe hopes to do some traveling and possibly catch up on some of the chores she could never seem to find time to do.

"Clean out the garage, that's the first thing to be done," she said.

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