After 39 years in the field of education, including the last six as the principal of Jones Elementary School, Pat Keffer is retiring. But don't be fooled; she's not slowing down anytime soon.
“I think most of the people that know me know that I'm not done,” Keffer said. “It's time for [something] new.”
A graduate of Penn State, Keffer has immersed herself in education, teaching elementary through high school students over the course of her career. She's worked in special education, as a resource teacher for the Gifted and Talented program, and held the role of assistant principal prior to her most recent position at Jones.
Keffer spent 30 years classroom teaching and nine years as an administrator. “Teaching is the best profession ever,” she said.
Now begins a new chapter in her life. She's already lined up volunteer positions with the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council and the Blue Ribbon Project, which provides support for survivors of child abuse, foster care and child sexual assault.
“Pat has a true passion for teaching and learning,” said Karen Simpson, who worked with Keffer for six years as a literacy teacher at Jones. “She passed onto me to never stop learning and continue to find our passion to pass onto the children.”
New Jones Elementary School Principal Jim Whisman shared a similar sentiment about Keffer’s devotion to the children.
“On the personal level, her passion was for kids. Her passion was for student learning,” said Whisman, who most recently served as assistant principal at Southgate Elementary School. “I could see that in just the couple times we met.”
Keffer spoke with gratitude and admiration as she reflected on her time at Jones Elementary.
“Every morning, I was out there greeting the students with a 'good morning, I'm so glad you're here,’ and having them say that back to me,” Keffer said. “The connections I made with the kids were invaluable.”
During Keffer’s tenure at Jones, the school successfully participated in numerous fundraisers, including Harvest for the Hungry and Pennies for Patients.
“Every year, we've been one of the top schools, of the small schools, for donations,” Keffer said. “Getting kids to see the importance of helping others and being kind has been a big focus.”
During Keffer's time as principal, Jones raised funds to build a new playground, celebrated its 60th anniversary and became a Wellness School of Distinction.
Eloise Patton, PTA president at Jones for the last two years, said Keffer’s support was visible in tangible ways, like supporting the PTA with the new playground and helping to boost PARCC scores, but also in smaller ways.
“She also showed her dedication in less measurable ways, attending every event and never missing a chance to cheer her students on at the talent show or color run,” Patton said. “She was committed to fostering an environment of kindness and community amongst the students, and it was very important to her that Jones was a caring and friendly school where all of the kids felt welcomed and included. She loved sharing the kids’ accomplishments, from small acts of kindness to putting on a successful play to working hard during tests. She was truly invested in all of the children and their experiences at Jones and will be missed.”
While each of those memories holds a special significance to Keffer and the rest of the Jones Elementary community, it's a different set of moments that she treasures most.
“It was more the day-to-day joys of being with the kids and being with the teachers,” she said. “It's the moments that you create with the kids: leaving little sticky notes on their desk when they've answered a question well when I'm in there.”
At an end-of-the-year ceremony, staff and students presented Keffer with a large multicolored picture of a heart that was filled with fingerprints of students and staff at school. The picture read “You've Touched Our Hearts.”
Jones Elementary has a tradition of clapping for the fifth-graders as they walk down the hallway on their last day in elementary school. This year, Keffer joined the fifth-graders as she was acknowledged for her last day in elementary school.
“One of the greatest things about teaching is opening those doors for kids and letting them see what is out there,” Keffer said. “Now it's my turn.”