Two longtime teachers to retire this year from Judge Memorial Catholic High School
Friday, May. 19, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY — Linda Simpson and Patrick Clark, who have taught at Judge Memorial Catholic High School for 24 and 48 years respectively, will be retiring at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
The two are “giants,” said JMCHS Principal Patrick Lambert. “You’ve got Pat Clark, who’s been at Judge Memorial for the past 48 years. Judge has been around for 96 years, so half of those years Pat Clark has been helping students realize their ability to do math and to ... learn how to be organized and start to gain confidence in their skills. It is an absolute pleasure to work with somebody that lives and breathes Judge Memorial.”
Similarly, Simpson “has more Judge pride than anybody I’ve ever met,” Lambert said. “Everywhere she goes she’s carrying the banner for Judge Memorial. She helps students realize their potential, she helps unlock potential amongst students that are quiet in other classes, she helps them realize that they have the ability to be critical thinkers and skilled writers. Over the years she has inspired thousands of students and is the kind of person that, however you’re feeling in the day, you know that her energy is going to be incredibly infectious and is going to brighten your day no matter what happens.”
Simpson teaches English, creative writing and film classes at Judge Memorial CHS. She spent 24 years teaching there, but she began teaching in 1969. It was in those earlier years that she taught one of the current math teachers at Judge Memorial CHS, Katie Bills, back when she was in 9th grade in Bonneville High School.
Getting to know Simpson first as a teacher, then as a colleague, has been amazing, Bills said.
“It took me a while to be able to call her ‘Linda,’” she said, laughing.
After becoming a teacher at Judge Memorial CHS, Simpson would insist on being called by her first name, but “I would always say, ‘No, you’re Mrs. Simpson to me!’” Bills said.
As her English teacher, Simpson “instilled in me a confidence that had been previously missing. She encouraged and praised my writing abilities while constantly challenging me,” Bills said; Simpson’s patient and loving care helped Bills write challenging papers throughout her school years, she said.
“Linda Simpson is a loved and admired teacher,” Bills said. “She would win Teacher of the Year every year if we did not have a rule that allows a teacher to win once every three years. It’s affectionately called the ‘Simpson Rule.’”
Simpson can’t remember ever wanting to be anything other than a teacher, she said. “I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”
When she finally became a teacher at Judge in 1986, she was thrilled, Simpson said.
“I felt like the cocker spaniel of the group, so excited to be there with the other teachers,” she said, laughing.
Her colleagues and the students whom she taught made her feel right at home immediately, she said.
Moments such as when a student “falls in love with something, … when they say, ‘I didn’t think I liked something like poetry, now I love it!’” remind her anew why she wanted to be a teacher, Simpson said.
“(Simpson) is the mother of the staff,” said Clark, who has taught math throughout his career. “She reaches out to students in every way. She possesses incredible energy … (and is) a landmark to Judge,” he said.
Clark is a Judge Memorial CHS alumnus who also helped with the baseball program for 10 years. His only break from being a student to being a teacher at Judge Memorial CHS were the years he spent in college, he said.
Clark’s favorite part of teaching has been seeing the variety and uniqueness in each colleague and student that he has encountered.
“The people I’ve gotten to work with have been tremendous,” and meeting new people and collaborating with old friends has always been a rewarding part of his job, he said.
Clark is an excellent teacher, said Jean Hill, government liaison for the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
“I am lucky enough to be one of many people who was taught by Mr. Clark, and to have my children taught by Mr. Clark,” Hill said. “I came to understand algebra thanks to Mr. Clark. And it’s the same with my kids. Mr. Clark was firm but kind.”
One memory that sticks out for Clark from all his years of teaching was when, after teaching math for a few years, the principal approached him and requested that he teach Latin as well. The problem was, the only Latin Clark had taken was years ago in high school, but he ended up agreeing anyway, he said.
“I was trying really hard to stay at least one day ahead of the students,” he said, laughing.
Working in a Catholic school has always been a bit scary financially and he remembered many times where he was afraid for Judge Memorial CHS’ future, Clark said.
“Catholic education has always been a fight to keep your head above water, … but it’s a good fight,” he said.
Simpson agreed with Clark that there is something special about Catholic education, something worth fighting for, she said. Last year in December, when a malignant tumor was removed from Simpson and she began going through chemotherapy, she experienced the kind of care only a Catholic school can give, she said.
Through it all “my students prayed for me. … That’s the thing that I appreciate most about Catholic schools.” She can always count on the support of the students and staff at Judge Memorial CHS and “no matter what challenges I’m facing, I’m not facing them alone,” Simpson said.
Through teaching, she discovered something important, Simpson said. “In the beginning, I thought that I was supposed to instill information in kids, but that’s not it. It’s about formation,” about helping kids grow in faith and as people, she said.
For Clark, if he could go back in time and say one thing to himself as a new teacher fresh out of college, it would be “You don’t know anything yet!” he said, laughing.
Simpson feels the same, she said.
“There’s an old adage: the one that learns most in the classroom is the teacher,” she said. She is glad to have spent so much time teaching and, even more importantly, learning alongside the staff and students at Judge Memorial CHS, she said.Marie Mischel contributed to this article