Elvia Gallagher, who is retiring this year, is considered an educational leader at the Patagonia School. Photo by Sarah Klingenstein

“Elvia Gallaher is a model educator,” Patagonia Schools superintendent Kenny Hayes said. “When you look up a great teacher in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Elvia.” 

The much-respected teacher is retiring this spring after over 30 years in education, with 26 of those spent in the Patagonia Schools. She has taught children in all subjects in grades pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, with her last several years spent teaching 4th grade.

Gallaher holds a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Bilingual Multicultural Education and an Elementary Spanish endorsement. Her master’s degree, also from NAU, is in Educational Leadership. She holds numerous endorsements and certificates.

Gallaher was born and raised in Santa Cruz County. English was her second language, and, like many of the students she has taught over the years, she received ESL and free lunch assistance. She proudly shares with her students that her dad was a migrant worker who later became a landscaper and that her mom was a school custodian who also cleaned houses.

Gallaher was inspired to become a teacher after seeing the 1988 movie, “Stand and Deliver.” “The impact that teacher Jaime Escalante had on his students is what planted the seed,” she said. The movie portrayed people who looked like her, who had families that spoke the same language as her, and a teacher who created a sense of family at school. A spark was lit.

“I believe that all children are capable learners. A master teacher must be proficient in his/her content area, have the technical skills to deliver instruction, and know how to artfully interweave those skills to meet the learner where they are,” Gallagher said. “I have always strived to create a safe and positive environment, and develop healthy relationships with students.”

“Teachers in rural schools wear many hats,” Hayes said. “Elvia has not only had every job possible here but is known for bringing creative and innovative ideas to each. When I came to Patagonia, she was the lead teacher of the Elementary School, meaning she was basically the principal of the PreK-5th grade classes. I and other school leaders are still learning from Elvia about educational leadership.”

Eva Acevedo, a paraprofessional who has worked with Gallaher for years, admires much about her mentor, including her energy to engage even reluctant students in creative projects and daily work. “Her positive outlook brings everyone along,” Acevedo said. “By observing her over the years, I developed my own mantra for classroom management: ‘Calm is control.’ I have never heard her raise her voice at a student. She focuses on the positive, and the students know what she expects.” 

“The best teachers leave memories that live on forever,” former student Carina Douglas said. “Mrs. Gallaher left quite the impression. Some of my favorite memories are playing basketball with her. And she made the classroom fun. She made a classroom store where we could make purchases and practice writing checks. She was the type of teacher I adored. I wish her the very best as she embarks on this next chapter of her life.”