Medora teacher retires: Bond with students makes retirement tough for veteran educator



As he stepped into the hallway between passing periods, Pat Bahan was greeted by student after student.

Knowing he had recently retired after 35 years with Medora Community Schools, the students asked how he was doing. Several even gave him a hug.

He earned that respect because of the impact he made on their lives inside and outside his social studies classroom.

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Sophomore Jack Combs said Bahan is the best teacher he has had.

“He was a very caring teacher who would check on his students and would work with you, whether you wanted his help or not,” Combs said. “I know this because when I was going through a rough time, he called my mom and made sure I was all right.”

Every morning, Combs and other students were greeted by Bahan at the entrance to the school.

“He’d be at the front of the school, holding the door and greeting every student with a smile and either a ‘Goooood morning!’ or his signature ‘Top of the morning to ya!'” Combs said. “He saw the best in people and would try to bring it out.”

Freshman Kenley King had Bahan as a teacher in sixth and seventh grades and one trimester of eighth grade. He also was her favorite teacher.

“He knew how to have fun and teach at the same time, and he would listen to anything you ever had to say,” she said. “I was upset because I didn’t get to have him the last year he was here, but I will miss him, and he will always hold a very special place in my heart.”

Senior Lillie Hatfield said Bahan was a great teacher.

“He always made class fun,” she said. “I laughed more in his class than any other class. He took us to do community service, and it was so fun. He treats all of his students like family.”

Bahan said the students are what he will miss the most.

“We’re a small school, and it didn’t take very long for me to start seeing these kids as my extended family,” the 64-year-old said. “It got to the place where I’m seeing them as family and seeing them as little nieces and nephews or grandchildren. A lot of them actually call me ‘Grandpa.’ … To see them grow up into wonderful human beings, as I grew older and hopefully a little wiser, that became the most important thing to me.”

A couple of schools offered him job opportunities with more pay along the way, but he just couldn’t step away from Medora.

“I thought long and hard about it, and I really felt like God put me here for a reason, and this is where I belong,” Bahan said. “These kids were my mission in life, and I love them. They are great.”

Bahan grew up on a farm between Medora and Brownstown and also spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ farm.

After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 1972, he joined the U.S. Army and served with the 101st and 509th Airborne for three years.

His father and an uncle both served in World War II.

“I think having that background was huge,” he said. “Just growing up in the day and time in which I did as a baby-boomer, following World War II, all of the TV shows, the movies, the books on World War II and Korea for that matter, it was like I grew up with the mentality that every decent human being needed to serve their country if there was any reason to.”

The 509th was based in Vicenza, Italy, and Bahan said they constantly were sent out on missions during his 13 months there.

Once active duty ended, he spent a year as a forward observer in a platoon company with the National Guard and nearly two years as a senior drill sergeant in the Army Reserve.

“It number one was what I felt like I had a responsibility to do,” Bahan said. “It was meaningful in the sense of the friends that I made. One of them is still one of my very closest friends. It meant a lot in terms of learning a lot about people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, races and so forth.”

Out of the Army, Bahan worked for his father’s business, Kenneth R. Bahan Sand & Gravel, along U.S. 50 west of Brownstown.

A little while later, his good friend from the Army convinced him to come to Deer Lodge, Montana, and work with him as a correctional officer at the Montana State Prison.

He did that for six months until returning to Indiana to run the family business.

On July 4, 1977, he married his wife, Lee, at sunrise in his parents’ yard. He wore buckskins, and she wore a colonial dress she had designed.

A year later, when they had their only child, Jenny, Lee convinced her husband to sever ties with the Army Reserve.

Then in the summer of 1978, he started taking classes at IUPUI Columbus. The school didn’t have much curriculum at the time, so halfway through his sophomore year, he transferred to Indiana University.

He graduated from the School of Education in the summer of 1982 and began working as a social studies teacher at Medora that fall.

For a while, he taught and ran the family business. A year after his father died in 1982, he talked his mother into selling the business so he could just focus on teaching.

“When I was running the gravel business, I had at one time three or four severely smashed fingers, blackened fingers, a couple of nails came off,” Bahan said. “I came to the conclusion if I kept with that business long enough, I was going to lose more than just a blackened finger, and I really didn’t think I wanted to go there.”

Bahan’s wife had originally wanted to team-teach with her husband, but she didn’t become a full-time teacher and decided to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing.

At Medora, Bahan taught seventh-grade social studies, eighth-grade U.S. history and high school geography, world history, U.S. history and government.

In 2006, the Indiana Department of Education wanted schools to start offering dual-credit courses, so Medora’s superintendent asked Bahan to become certified. At the time, teachers had to have at least 18 graduate hours in their subject area to teach dual-credit classes.

He had taken some graduate-level history and political science courses at IU, and he earned his master’s degree in education and a postgraduate certificate in building-level administration from Indiana Wesleyan University.

During the winter, he went to Ashland University in Ohio for free intensive history and political science postgraduate classes. For each one, he earned an hour of credit and wrote a graduate paper.

“It was just love at first bite,” Bahan said. “I got hooked on it, and I would just every year pick up one more hour whether I needed it anymore or not. In fact, I’m already signed up for one even though I’m retired.”

Bahan also was selected as Indiana’s delegate for the Presidential Academy on History and Government. The all-expenses-paid trip allowed him to learn from highly acclaimed historical authors and professors in Philadelphia and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. That also gave him four credit hours of graduate-level history.

In his 10 years as a dual-credit teacher at Medora, classes were offered through Vincennes University, Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College. He also served with ISU’s dual-credit advisory council.

In the spring of 2017, he told school administration he was going to retire later in the year.

Changes in teaching regulations and methods over the years and “an aging body” were factors in his decision to retire.

On Nov. 17, his daughter was killed in a car accident in California, so he had to take some time off to travel there with his wife and arrange a memorial service.

He started his own Facebook account so he could post service information and wound up receiving numerous condolences.

“As soon as I got on there, these kids just started piling on these really sweet condolences and prayers, just an incredible outpouring of compassion and love,” he said. “That’s pretty special.”

Being so close to the students made the decision to retire even harder.

“I can find academic stimulation somewhere else, but I love these kids. They are like my kids,” he said. “Having the privilege of being a part of all of these young people’s lives and seeing them grow up into wonderful human beings has really been probably the greatest privilege of my life.”

In retirement, Bahan said he will have more time for hunting, fishing and fulfilling his wife’s “honey-do list.”

“Not necessarily in that order,” he said, smiling. “They are probably in reverse order if the truth be told.”

That list involves continuing to make repairs on their home, which his grandparents built in 1913. He and his wife also plan to take a camper to travel to her literary conferences and book signings.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Bahan file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Pat Bahan

Age: 64

Hometown: Brownstown

Residence: Medora

Military service: U.S. Army, three years; National Guard, one year; Army Reserve, two years

Education: Brownstown Central High School (1972); Indiana University (bachelor’s degree in education, 1982); Indiana Wesleyan University (master’s degree in education and postgraduate certificate in building-level administration); Ashland University (history and political science postgraduate coursework)

Occupation: Recently retired after 35 years as a social studies teacher at Medora Community Schools

Accomplishments: Bicentennial Fellowship in 1976; judge for the Indiana History Days state competition for six years; moderator for the Indiana Jefferson meeting on the state constitution for six years; Indiana’s delegate for the Presidential Academy on History and Government in 2006; certification to teach dual-credit courses

Family: Wife, Lee; late daughter, Jenny

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“Having the privilege of being a part of all of these young people’s lives and seeing them grow up into wonderful human beings has really been probably the greatest privilege of my life.”

Pat Bahan on his recent retirement from Medora Community Schools


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