Teresa Osborne is one of many local teachers retiring this June
Teaching a lesson on inflation to her Advanced Placement Government class at Reynolds High School, Teresa Osborne has the students call out some costs of typical high school student life.
How much is a gallon of gas? A prom ticket? A latte at Starbucks? They finish the list and are astounded when she unveils how much the same items cost just 10 years ago. Inflation understood.
"Osborn has an amazing way with kids," said Rick Stern, a retired Reynolds High School teacher who now supervises student teachers at a Portland college.
But the beloved instructor has been teaching at Reynolds for 34 years and has decided to finally call it quits at the end of this school year. She's one of at least 50 teachers retiring in June in East Multnomah County schools, taking with them easily more than 1,000 years of hard-won teaching experience.
The head of the social studies department at Reynolds, Osborne followed in the footsteps of her father, Skip Squires. He taught social studies in the district and the high school for 31 years, retiring in 1993. Squires died shortly after retirement.
"We thought when Skip left, no one could fill his shoes," Stern wondered. "Now who can fill her shoes?"
Osborne has taught a wide variety of social studies courses including AP government, economics, AP European history, U.S. history, modern world history and media and society. She also teaches AVID, a college prep class for students who might not normally consider themselves college material.
Stern said "she champions students that maybe are not great students but will be amazing, incredible citizens."
A lot has changed in teaching in the past 34 years. Both class sizes and the school have gotten bigger, Osborne said. The first few years she had about 160 students per year, this year she started the year with 215. She has classes of 40 and more students. Reynolds had about 950 pupils when she began teaching, and that has almost tripled to about 2,600 kids.
"I knew every kid in the graduating class. Now I can go to graduation, and some of the kids are completely unfamiliar to me," she said.
Of course, the makeup of Reynolds High has also changed. The school has become dramatically more diverse with dozens of languages spoken. And many more students are living in poverty.
"I'm really amazed at the number of my kids that can so quickly move between languages," she said.
Another big change, likely related to more widespread poverty, is that more of her students are working paid jobs.
"Most of that is helping their families," she said, adding that "the distractions of modern life" have invaded the classroom and the way students learn. Students are checking their cell phones, she noted, and texting has made students "struggle with how to talk to someone face-to-face."
The reliance on technology also seems to make today's high school students less sure of themselves, she opined.
"Sometimes they aren't as willing to accept they know something. They want to look it up. They lose the ability to work something through."
Technology has changed for teachers too.
"When I first started at Reynolds High School, there was a single copy machine, to be used sparingly. I had to use the overhead machine and kids had to write it all down. The fact there were IBM Selectric typewriters available was a super bonus situation," she said with a laugh.
Making her mark
Osborne was not one of those teachers who knew from a young age that was her calling. In fact, her dad discouraged her from entering the profession.
"He told me not to become a teacher. He said it was too hard work and it's just going to get harder," she said.
Nonetheless, she's found it deeply rewarding.
"She challenges them and they love her for it," Stern said.
"When kids say at the end of the year, 'I really learned a lot,' or sometimes a parent will say 'he was talking about this topic at dinner,' or I hear from former students years later," that means a lot, Osborne said.
Osborne has earned many awards and accolades in her long career. Last summer she was selected to be a Reese Fellow and spent weeks in the summer at George Washington's Virginia home, Mount Vernon. She'll go back this summer to finish the fellowship research project.
She was on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's education advisory group in 2013-14.
Osborne last year received an Outstanding Educator award from Kaiser Permanente, the health care giant. It comes with a $5,000 donation to Reynolds High School.
In 2001, Osborne was selected as the Oregon Council for the Social Studies High School Teacher of the Year. She has also developed curriculum for the Oregon History Center, Kinder Care Distance Learning and has been an adjunct instructor at Portland Community College and Mt. Hood Community College.
The lessons she's learned through the years, Osbourne said, have made her more patient as well as smarter.
"When I teach AP Government, there is so much I have to know and track and learn. It changes all the time," she said. "I've also learned to eat really, really fast."
With a trip to Switzerland and another to Africa already planned, Osbourne intends to tackle a pile of books she's amassed through the past 10 years, and said she would likely do some part-time work in education.
Osborne and her other fellow teachers retiring this year have made their mark on thousands of lives during their careers.
"The kids love her," Stern said. "She tells them 'no' and they are happy to hear it. She really encourages and motivates them."
Although she's looking forward to the changes retirement brings, she will miss the educators and the students.
"I have amazing colleagues. They work exceptionally hard. They are always trying to do better."
She ticks off teacher efforts such as bringing a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet to campus and the art teacher arranging for students to work with artists and display their art at the Portland Art Museum.
"We really have to work to make sure our kids have the same opportunities as kids in Portland, Lake Oswego or Beaverton," she said. "And, I'll miss the kids. They can be really hilarious sometimes.
"I will not miss correcting papers," she added with a smile.