When one of our readers nominated “Mrs. Skeels” for the April 7th slot of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog, I have to admit my first reaction was tinged with a bit of trepidation. Not because there was any question she deserved to be recognized because I knew she did. My problem was that I’m Trish Skeels brother-in-law and I knew from experience that her treatment of me as the husband of her sister did not give me the sort of inside-the-classroom-perception I needed to explain to you all why she was such an outstanding elementary educator.
Now granted, I’ve been with her countless times, mostly in Capital District shopping malls when she and my wife would be headed to yet another store and we’d hear someone screech “Mrs. Skeels, Mrs. Skeels!” Her husband Richard and I would then patiently wait while whoever did the screeching hugged her, told her how much they loved being in her classroom and then discussed what they had been doing during the twenty or so years since. This type of encounter has happened so many times, one didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that Trish Skeels was a much loved teacher, but I needed details.
Then I remembered Michela. She’s my oldest daughter who not only had Mrs. Skeels as a fifth grader at Bacon Elementary, she went on to become an elementary teacher herself. I called her earlier today and asked her to explain why her aunt was such a gifted teacher. Michela said it was the enthusiasm that Trish brought to her job every single day. She always worked so hard to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for her students. She set high expectations for her kids and she pushed them to achieve but when they did, she celebrated with them and that made learning fun and personally rewarding. Michela emphasized Trish’s ability to instill a love of literature in her students. She converted the reading of a book from something her class had to do to something they couldn’t wait to do.
During her thirty-plus years at Bacon, Trish Skeels truly became the face and spirit of that special school. She was also a powerful advocate for kids outside of the classroom. Trish was one of the driving forces behind the effort to get the Sassafras Safari playground constructed. She’s also the person who came up with the brilliant concept for the original Teen Scene, which enrolled the help of parents to turn Lynch Middle School into a place where kids actually wanted to spend their Friday nights. I know I speak for the hundreds of students whose lives she touched when I thank her for her years of exceptional service and wish her a very Happy Birthday. We love you Trish!