Even with the taste of summer freedom in the air Tuesday morning, many students at Lena Whitmore Elementary in Moscow took time out of their day to say goodbye to a pair of teachers who are each wrapping up 30-year education careers on the Palouse.
The same year LaDene Edwards began teaching music in Moscow, the Berlin Wall came down, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was the most popular movie in the U.S. and humanity was about one year away from being introduced to the wonders of the World Wide Web.
Edwards’ colleague, fifth grade teacher Judy Mock, started with the district about two years earlier and, after a combined 62 years of teaching Moscow students, the two have become beloved members of the local education community.
“When (former students) come back to Lena to visit their teachers, they come back to see Judy and LaDene,” Lena Whitmore Principal Kendra McMillan said. “I think the reason for it is because of the relationships that they built with kids, they are amazing — they care.”
Born and raised in Missoula, Mont., Mock received her bachelor’s degree in teaching from the University of Montana before moving to Moscow for her husband’s work.
She later obtained her master’s from the University of Idaho. By contrast, Edwards hails Wisconsin and moved to Idaho to be closer to the sky.
“I had an aunt who went to law school here and I was going to move out west to the mountains,” Edwards said. “But I did want to study music also so when the mountain thing fell through, the U of I was here and I got a job as a nurse and went to school.”
Edwards and Mock secured teaching jobs in the district in the late ‘80s and spent the next several decades endearing themselves to their students and community.
Mock found she had a talent for teaching at the higher elementary grade levels — starting off with sixth, followed by years of instructing fifth-graders.
As a music teacher, Edwards was able to teach across grades and engage students of different ages as instruction in music and the arts gradually became regarded as more and more critical to a student’s education.
She said the benefits to music and musical instruction are too numerous to list, calling it “an essential part of being human.” Both said they are grateful to be a part of a unique community that allowed them to help raise and love their children.
“The thing that’s unique about this community, I think, is how close families and kids are to the education process,” said Mock. “You don’t get — I don’t think, in a lot of places — the families being as involved in education as they are around here.”
Mock said her husband, a mechanic with Inter-State Aviation, just retired May 31, and the two are looking forward to traveling to national parks and Hawaii without being restricted by their work schedules.
When asked what she will do when she retires, Edwards answered “I haven’t a clue,” — though one of her students suggested she might sleep in more, which she agreed was likely.
Edwards said she has a lot of energy, and intends to continue to stay involved with the community, just in a new capacity, though she admitted, “it’s going to be weird.”
“There’s so much to do in this community,” Edwards said. “Whether you want to do another job or you want to volunteer — there’s so many things to be involved with.”
“We’re going to have to get together in August when school starts,” Mock added, noting she and Edwards live close to one another. “We’re in each other’s phone, we’ll have to get in touch with each other and go out to breakfast or something.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.