TORRINGTON – After 24 years, longtime Torrington educator Grady Hutcherson will not return to his Lincoln Elementary second grade classroom this fall.
Hutcherson, who recently finished his final term as vice president of Wyoming Education Association, will move to Cheyenne to work as president of the association. While he is “devastated” to leave the classroom setting, he said serving as vice president while teaching was like having two full-time jobs, and he is ready to focus completely on advocacy work.
State affiliate of the National Education Association, WEA is a professional organization representing over 6,300 public education professionals. Given the unprecedented situation for students and educators amid the coronavirus pandemic, Hutcherson said he will be busy when his term begins on July 15.
“Because of the pandemic and what that has done to the economy in our state, what is going to have to be the primary focus is, of course, how we return to school, making sure everybody is safe and healthy, and also that funding component in terms of budgets and the devastating outlook of resources for the future years,” Hutcherson said.
After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in 1996, Hutcherson immediately moved to Torrington after accepting a position with Goshen County School District. His involvement in WEA began at the local level with the Goshen County Education Association, where he held multiple positions over the years, including the presidency.
“You can impact change at the local level by being involved, and because of my passion, I wanted to broaden that,” Hutcherson said. “That’s what motivated me to get involved with the state level, so I can impact students across the state.”
Most recently, Hutcherson taught second grade, but he has taught at the third, fourth and fifth grade levels, in addition to a year teaching mathematics at the high school level.
Hutcherson’s impact is not lost on his colleagues at GCSD, especially Lincoln Elementary School Principal Nyana Sims, who said she has worked with him for over 16 years. That impact, she said, is “hard to put into words.”
“He knows the law and policy, and so he helps keep a balance between the instruction in the classroom and policies that run the district,” Sims said. “That’s a big loss for us. However, now we’ve got that foot in the door at the state level.”
Gwen Walsh, who now teaches fifth grade at Trail Elementary School, worked with Hutcherson throughout his 24-year career in Goshen County. Walsh said she not only admires his advocacy work with the WEA, but also his everyday classroom management.
“Even though I have a few more years experience than him, he is certainly my role model,” Walsh said. “He has a way of making sure everyone in his class is kind to every other student in class. He’s big on rapport and students all being treated kindly.”
As a male elementary school teacher, Hutcherson said he feels a responsibility to be a positive male role model for students who may lack those figures outside of school. Sims echoed the sentiment, saying it is for that reason - among others - that he will be “greatly missed.”
The feeling is mutual, as Hutcherson said not being around students will be “the hardest part” about his new role. Due to school closures in light of COVID-19, Hutcherson did not know that when the bell signaled the end of the school day on March 13 that it would be his final time in his Lincoln Elementary classroom. Virtual instruction and Zoom calls with students continued, but it was not the same as in-person interactions.
“It will be strange when fall rolls around and I’m not getting ready to start back up in the classroom,” Hutcherson said. “Because of no closure at the end of the year because of COVID-19, it didn’t seem real. I know it’s over, but there was no finality to it.”
On the windows facing outside Lincoln Elementary School, signs are hung congratulating both the second graders who will move across the street to Trail Elementary School this fall to start third grade, and Mr. Hutcherson who will move roughly 80 miles south to start his term as president of WEA.
Though Hutcherson recently removed his belongings from the classroom, he said it may not be for the last time. His term as president will last three years, at which point he is eligible to be elected for another. In six years, he will be on the cusp of being eligible to retire.
“Part of me thinks I probably would look at opportunities to go back into the classroom, but there might be other opportunities in the field to pursue,” Hutcherson said. “I’ve always been so passionate about public education and I consider myself a lifelong and avid learner, so whatever I choose to do, I’ll still be involved in public education in some fashion.”
For now, he will represent GCSD at the state level, making the community proud.
“I’m glad he got his experience here and that we got to experience him,” Walsh said.