Elementary school principal retiring after varied career
“I love teaching — that was my first calling,” said Bob Winters, who’s retiring in June from a 34-year career in education, capped by four years as principal of Methow Valley Elementary School.
Winters treasured his time in the Methow. “The sense of community here is so strong — that doesn’t exist in many places these days,” he said.
Winters also praised the “striking caliber” of the staff in the district. “People here are highly skilled, with an uncommon sense of caring about the students and their families — that’s part of the sense of community,” he said.
After an especially varied career, Winters knows firsthand about how communities work. His first teaching job was in a remote Eskimo village in Alaska with about 400 inhabitants.
In addition to working as a teacher and administrator in the Bellingham area and in Boston, Winters taught in Scotland, Latvia, Romania and Malaysia.
“It’s been fun — it’s a working person’s way to see the world,” said Winters, who said living and working abroad gave him a completely different sense of the people and places, compared with simply visiting on vacation.
Connecting with kids
In all, Winters spent 25 years teaching, mostly at the elementary level, and nine as a principal. School administration was satisfying, but it was a role that meant most of his time was with adults. So Winters made a special effort to connect with kids every day. Among his ways of relating to kids was his ability to create a menagerie of animals out of balloons, a talent he plied regularly in classes.
While Winters is retiring from education, he will hardly be idle. The academic schedule allowed him to pursue his “summer job,” fishing for salmon in Alaska. In fact, Winters has fished even longer than he’s been an educator, and is heading up to his small boat on Bristol Bay for the 35th year, right after school gets out.
Winters will remain a familiar face in the school and community. He plans to volunteer at the school and to help orient Paul Gutzler, the new principal at Methow Valley Elementary. Winters and Gutzler both worked in the Mount Baker School District near Bellingham and, while their time there didn’t overlap, they have colleagues in common.
Winters looks forward to working with nonprofits in the valley and to having time to explore the Methow by hiking, biking and skiing.
“This has been a wonderful place for me to be,” said Winters. “I appreciated the kids, the families and my colleagues. I definitely have mixed feelings about retirement — education is what I know.”