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Patty Wells’ Retirement: A Legacy of Dedication and Compassion

Health & Wellness
Patty Wells, beloved GNS teacher, is retiring.

GNS is preparing to bid another farewell to one of its cherished teachers, Mrs. Patty Wells. She is retiring after a career that spanned over three decades. Her retirement marks the end of an era characterized by individualized support and the removal of barriers to learning.

Patty emphasized the importance of personalized learning strategies and emotional resilience in teaching. Known for her passion for helping students with a variety of learning needs, she shared her journey from growing up in Edmonton to teaching in various schools until coming to GNS.

She credited her father as a role model as he was a teacher, too, and she followed in his footsteps. “I saw that he was always involved in everything, hardworking and he was definitely a team player. He was always volunteering to do things at school and I saw that he was a real role model in our community as well.”  

She said that her dad’s teaching style was more stringent, characteristic of that time, while Patty’s teaching style has focused more on understanding each individual student, their unique learning styles and how she could support them effectively through recommended learning strategies.

During her time at the University of Alberta, she found herself thriving in group work, where there was a common goal and a shared positive outcome. “University also taught me not to just rest on your laurels, but to continue to have a growth mindset and that you never finish learning.”

After university, Patty taught for one year at a school in Edmonton. It was a real eye-opener for her, as many students came from families that had recently immigrated to Canada. Communication with parents was often challenging due to language barriers. 

This experience was valuable for her as a young teacher, revealing that many challenges were not academic, rather, they related to ensuring student’s basic needs were met, such as attendance, whether they’d eaten and their overall well-being at home. That year contributed to her growth and maturity at only age 22. “It opened my eyes to the fact that not everybody has the same advantages in life.” 

Patty would bring food to school to ensure her students had eaten, and she dedicated herself to learning about how every child learns differently, an experience that would shape her approach with students at GNS later in her career. 

“I would make bagels in my classroom for students who did not eat breakfast at home, and if I noticed something else was going on with a student it would have been easier to think ‘oh, someone else will take care of them,’ but instead I learned to be curious and ask what’s going on and is there something I can help you with? Sometimes just asking is what they need–to know that somebody cares about them.”

Patty brought her deep capacity for empathy to her work at GNS as a Learning Strategist, assisting students with a range of learning differences through an individualized approach. Believing in the power of accommodation, her commitment to inclusivity and recognizing diverse forms of intelligence stems from her passion for working with youth.

“It’s funny, I think back to the second principal in my career; he said to me in an interview, ‘I have to ask you, do you like kids?’ And I thought, what a ridiculous question, but now that I’m much older, that actually resonates with me because it is a question to ask yourself. Are you in education because you really love working with kids? Because you should be.” 

Patty’s focus is working one-on-one with students who have autism, anxiety, ADHD, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. She also supports students with comorbidities, those who struggle with more than one learning challenge at once. She finds this work incredibly rewarding, as she helps these students develop blueprints to succeed. Patty particularly enjoys working with older students, watching them implement these strategies, graduate and then move on confidently to universities they are thrilled to attend.

She often reflects on the behind-the-scenes efforts that contribute to a nurturing educational environment. Her approach acknowledges that students have different learning needs. She has observed that attitudes have significantly shifted, with a greater openness to the idea that not everyone learns in the same way. Teaching a class of 20 students with a one-size-fits-all method simply doesn’t work.

Patty shared inspiring stories of students overcoming significant challenges to achieve their goals, such as a student who triumphed over leukemia. The chemotherapy that saved her life also caused developmental delays, and as a mother of three children herself, Patty was deeply moved by the family’s struggle. 

Patty met with the family to understand their hopes for their daughter, whose ultimate dream was to become a nurse because of her own experiences growing up in and out of the hospital. Patty implemented various accommodations, such as extra time on tests and a quiet space for exams, allowing the student to focus better.

Despite some struggles, the student thrived and reached Grade 12 while doing exceptionally well. She is now on track to become a nurse and Patty said that the student’s hard work and determination allowed her to realize her dream.

Because Patty’s three children attended GNS, teachers here became like an extended family to her, especially since her other family members lived elsewhere. Some of her closest friends are her colleagues at GNS and she finds immense joy in interacting with the students. Being able to work at the same school as her children was a true privilege to her as well. Her middle daughter expressed gratitude for the opportunities and growth she experienced at GNS, and said that if it weren’t for the school’s high standards and supportive community she may not have been as motivated to succeed as a student.

As she steps into retirement, Patty plans to dedicate more time to personal growth, travel and spending time with her family. She credits her husband, Keith, for being a steadfast supporter of her hard work and for encouraging her to embrace this new chapter.

Patty Wells’ 13-year tenure at GNS leaves a profound impact on countless lives. Her colleagues and the entire school community feel privileged to have worked alongside such a nurturing and inspiring educator. As she moves forward into her well-deserved retirement, Patty’s deep care and progressive mindset will influence how other teachers make their mark on student lives.