After reading stories from Teacher Appreciation Week, one former teacher sent us a gift from his students that he’s kept for more than half a century. Here’s his story of student appreciation.

Share story

When Danny Beatty, a retired teacher from Anacortes, saw our stories during Teacher Appreciation Week, he was moved to tell his own — a teacher’s appreciation for his students.

Back in 1955, when he was not even halfway into his first year teaching at Anacortes High School at the tip of Fidalgo Island in northwest Washington, he received an Army draft notice. Upon hearing the news, his students put together a petition to delay the 22-year-old teacher’s draft until the end of the school year.

He’s kept that petition for 61 years — until a couple of weeks ago, when he placed it into an envelope and mailed it to us along with this letter:

Dear Ms. Bazzaz,

Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and City University of Seattle. Learn more about Ed Lab 

I enjoyed reading your Education Lab column this morning and look forward to reading more this week.

I have thought (often) there is another side of the coin in the school environment, and that often the teachers also appreciate the students.

I started teaching in Anacortes High School in September 1955 after graduating from Western Washington University in June of that year. My class “load” was six periods of 28 to 30 students. The school building was old and had been built around the turn of the 19th century. My classroom was on the third floor. We certainly got some exercise as did the students as they moved from class to class. Anacortes School District is in the process of starting construction on the fourth high school since the original Columbia school.

Before midyear, I received my army draft notice and was ordered to report for physical and induction on February 14, 1956. When the students heard about the notice, they organized a petition which was given to a school official. But, by that time, Superintendent (Clarence Henning) had already contacted the draft board and asked for an extension until the end of the school year — which was granted. I have kept that petition for 61 years and have been thinking about what I should do with it. Maybe you will find some interest in how much I appreciated those students and their desire to keep me at the school until the end of the term.

I have kept in touch with some of the students over these many years. Two or three came back after college and taught with me. One of the students is now a good friend of my wife and they get together almost every week for a walk. When the class had their 55th high school reunion two years ago, I sent them the enclosed letter. I went to the reunion and had a wonderful evening visiting with these former students.


Danny Beatty

At the end of the school year in 1956, Beatty’s students threw him a goodbye party. He served in the Army for two years, after which he returned to Anacortes and taught until his retirement in 1985. He is now 83 years old. (And, for the record, we’re planning on returning the petition to Beatty after this publishes.)

Special thanks to Bret Lunsford at the Anacortes Museum for helping with fact-checking in this article.

Are you a current or former teacher with a student appreciation story to tell? Share it with us: Or, you could send us snail mail like Beatty did:

Dahlia Bazzaz

The Seattle Times Education Lab

P.O. Box 70

Seattle, WA 98111