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The Butterfly Effect in Education | NCS Legacy Leaders John Snider and Patsy Seay 


The Butterfly Effect in Education - NCS Legacy Leaders John Snider and Patsy Seay 

For most people, the time they spend in the public school system represents only 12 or 13 years of their lives. But for educators who return to guide the next generation, the connections forged through people, place and purpose can extend for decades, and last long after they retire from the classroom.

This spring, Nelson County Schools facilitated a conversation between some former educators and students as they reflected on how the schools impacted them as students and as teachers, and continue to enrich their lives even decades after they retired.

John Snider came to Nelson County High School in 1969, its first year after consolidation, as a guidance counselor. He retired from NCHS 30 years ago. He graduated in 1956 from Bloomfield High. 

This spring he sat with a former colleague who also taught him when he was a student, Patsy Seay. This June marks 36 years since she retired from teaching, a special milestone because she was a teacher for 36 years. Her connection to John stretches back to his days as a high-schooler. She was moving her books into her new classroom at Bloomfield High School when two young men playing basketball offered to help her. One of those students was John Snyder.

“Because of his parents, he has always been a very, very nice, thoughtful person. And he carried that into adulthood. And when he decided that he wanted to come home, to teach and to be involved in education here, we were all tickled to death,” Patsy said.

Teachers might only have a student one semester or a year, but many students stay with them after they are no longer sitting at the desk in front of them.

“I run into students all the time at Nelson County no matter where I go, and all the memories, it's a joy to me to run into them,” John said.

The same goes for Patsy.

“I can't go anywhere, as Mr. Snyder said, without seeing at least one, maybe a handful, of former students,” Patsy said.  Sometimes she has trouble connecting faces to names so many decades removed from the classroom. 

“But if I can see a smile,  I can put them in their chair in the classroom. I can tell exactly what kind of grades they made. Some of them I can remember their term papers and their titles.”

The impact between the teacher and pupil goes both ways.

Lois Clayton (Class of ’71) was a student at NCHS and met John while she was a junior working in the front office. 

“He always treated me like I was an adult. He never treated me like I was a kid or like I didn't know what I was doing. And the funny thing was that he asked me later that summer, during my first summer job, if I wanted to work in the guidance office during my senior year,” she said.

Lois went on to work in the school system, bringing the cycle full-circle.

Most students do not go on to become educators themselves, but they are influenced by their teachers, often in ways that go unseen.

Earl Kirkpatrick, (NCHS Class of ’81) is a manager at American Fuji Seal, but had the opportunity recently to reconnect with John. He wanted him to know the impact he made on his life, and brought him the book “The Butterfly Effect, How Your Life Matters” by Andy Andrews, and he wrote a note on the inside cover.

“I think this applies to not only Mr. Snider but pretty much any teacher,” he said. 

In the note, he wrote: “Mr. Snider, a word of thanks for your example of how to conduct yourself professionally with class, dignity and respect. You were sometimes feared, always respected and very much appreciated for your guidance in my life, and so many others throughout your career.” 

“I think that sums up my feelings about a lot of my teachers I've had,” Earl said.



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