Hartsoe’s DIVE into Education: A Summary of Her 28 Years at FHC

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Karisah Watkins-Martin, Staff Writer

Pat Hartsoe was a water baby. She spent the entirety of her childhood in the water; everything around her remained still and all that could be heard was the the muffled chatter that reverberated throughout the clear pool water. It was there, lost in the gentle waves of the swimming pool, that she seemed to find comfort.

This safe haven that Hartsoe had become so acquainted with during her childhood years offered her more than just a home away from home. It offered her a love for water that manifested from her younger years and somehow, throughout the last few years of her childhood seemed to metamorphosize into a love for educating the youth.

When Hartsoe entered high school and the time came for her to begin earning her own money, she decided to become a swim instructor. According to Hartsoe, everything just seemed “natural” and to fall into place. Not only did Hartsoe find herself at ease harmoniously weaving in and out of  the fluidic waves of the water, but she also seemed to take refuge in interacting with her swimming students. Instructing them on the different strokes and formations provided Hartsoe with a sudden realization. As she said goodbye to her students and wiped the condensation from her googles, everything became clear. Her passion was not swimming, but instead teaching.

“It [teaching] just seems like something I was always supposed to do,” said Hartsoe, reminiscing on the old days when her classroom was confined to that of an aquatic center.

Hartsoe’s educational journey all started with substitute teaching. Fresh out college, she would venture to an assortment of schools, ranging from the inner city of Grand Rapids to Zeeland. And while she has racked up her resume from her experience teaching at a variety of school districts, Hartsoe says FHC has always been her home. She was initially drawn to the warm atmosphere that engulfed the school; its amicable staff and receptive students had a lasting impact on her.

While the school seemed to leave a prodigious impression on her, Hartsoe seemed to greatly influence the school itself. Over her 36 years at FHC, she has had the unique opportunity to not only have an immense impact on the faculty and students, but also on the school and district as a whole. Hartsoe not only taught physical education, but was also the founder of the successful Global Games class.

Although Hartsoe was involved in a variety of different classes at FHC, she finally found her “niche” 9 years ago: teaching health class.By instructing the class for a number of years, she was able to understand the true definition of the word “health.” Hartsoe was able to come to the conclusion that there is so much more to health than there used to be; it has morphed into a much broader scope beyond just “exercise.” The modern concept of the word includes topics such as internet safety and also mental and social health, which is especially pertinent to students as they are treading through the muddy of waters of high school. Besides being able to educate students on the true definition of “health”, Hartsoe savors being given the opportunity to make a difference in her student’s lives.

“The most enjoyable thing about teaching health is to actually have people say to me that I’ve changed my habits and I’m actually doing something healthier for my body. To actually see people change their habits…now that means alot to me,” said Hartsoe.

While her career at FHC is an amalgam of memories and cannot be labeled by a single one, she states there are in fact a few defining moments within the school that will be forever engraved in her memory. One involved the sport of broomball and a giant snowball. Several years ago on a winter day, she was educating her students on the obscure canadian game and decided to allow her students to trek to the old tennis courts. These tennis courts soon catalysed into an unconventional ice rink…the students were running around, whacking the ball, and toppling over each other into the blankets of crisp snow. Someone had rolled a giant snowball a couple feet high, and Hartsoe fondly remembers climbing atop the giant mound of snow and gazing over her students, a giant smile stretched across her face.

“It was just amazing,” said Hartsoe. “Being able to watch a bunch of kooky kids from all different backgrounds just letting loose and having fun together. Now, that’s something I’ll never forget.”

For Hartsoe, teaching has done so much more than just pay her bills. It has become her passion; it has nurtured both her soul and her spirit.

“What it has done, to be around teenagers all day, especially once you get older…it allows you to stay young in your spirit and your approach to things,” said Hartsoe. “So, what I have noticed, is that once I’m around people my own age, they seem boring to me. But when you’re around different kinds of kids and they come from different backgrounds…that truly keeps you young at heart.”