Valley shining star retires from teaching

The beloved Ms. Sally Clements is retiring from teaching after a 32-year career.
Currently, Ms. Clements is teaching fifth grade at Lorna Byrne Middle School, but her journey started back in the ‘70s upon graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in education in Morehead, Kentucky, where Daniel Boone’s territory of the Appalachian Mountains was located.
Although Kentucky-born, Clements’ true teaching story started in 1979 when she traveled west with her former husband and settled in Sun Star, the community close to Takilma.
“I have never been in such an environment where the summers are rainless and you bake, whereas in Kentucky you steam from the high humidity. This beautiful place became home and a place where I ‘grew up.’ Not only is it a backdrop for the majestic Siskiyou Mountains, but this area holds such talented, heartfelt, giving and beautiful people,” said Clements.
“It was easy to meet and make friends within the community of Takilma. This was about the time the community began building the Community Building with a focus of housing a parent co-op school.”
In 1985, Clements began teaching with Helen Kauffman at the Dome School for preschool and kindergarten. “Teaching at the Dome school was my home turf; it was very entertaining.” Kauffman was a mentor to her and taught her how to work with the little ones. “Helen showed me what it took to bring kids out of their shell and about investigative learning. She taught me positive reactions to kids’ creativity.”
Kauffman was also the teacher that encouraged her to go back to school to get her teaching certification. “I worked with Sally for two or three years and she was enjoyable, inspiring, a fast learner and she turned out to be a good teacher. I worked with a lot of teachers through the years and she was one of the best,” said Kauffman with sincerity.
“One of my most favorite memories was being involved with the all-women paneling project. Della Meengs was one of the leaders, and then in the future when I began teaching first grade at Evergreen Elementary, she was once again a mentor,” Clements recalled.
Clements began her next teaching adventure in 1998 with Three Rivers School District at the Selma Elementary School teaching kindergarten.
“Selma was a good stepping stone because it too was a good school. It was one class per grade and there was a lot of team building. Principal Kate Newman was at Selma Elementary and she was very caring and wanted the best for everyone – staff, educators and kids. She believed in us,” described Clements.
Next came teaching at Evergreen Elementary School when the TRSD closed the Selma school and moved the Valley’s elementary school to Cave Junction. Clements taught first grade and then eventually moved to second grade.
Clements shared many of her cherished memories, but a highlight was her time spent in the classroom with Christen Cowan who was her volunteer for 21 years. Cowan grew up in the Valley and became a grand champion motorcyclist, but when she was in a terrible accident she had to learn how to read all over again. “Ms. Clements helped me after I was in a coma and had to learn to walk again and go to occupational therapy. It was a long road. I had to study and take spelling tests along with the kids … It was a circle of love with Ms. Clements, the kids and me.”
Clements recalled that she and Cowan were a team and dressed up as Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1 and Thing 2 and went into the classrooms. “It was so fun, that was great,” remembered Clements.
Another fond memory included her time with Evergreen teaching assistant Mike Yarbrough, who was a local that broke his neck and became a paraplegic. Yarbrough ended up volunteering with Clements in her second trade classroom at Evergreen and then later became a teaching assistant. “She is an amazing woman; the reason I’m where I am today!” Yarbrough is still a teaching assistant at Evergreen and said with a laugh, “I finally made it to third grade.”
When Evergreen shut down due to COVID-19 in 2020, Clements taught distance learning classes and then participated in the Three Rivers School District virtual school for two years.
One thing Clements has enjoyed has been running into former students and hearing meaningful comments like, “She has been my favorite teacher.”
“It is great to hear feedback from kids years later and still being a memory for them,” said Clements.
Another enjoyable aspect of teaching for 32 years in the Valley has been the fact that she has taught students and also taught their children.
One of those students was Jody Middleton that Ms. Clements taught at the Dome School and then years later taught Middleton’s daughters Nadja for second grade at Evergreen and Tyleah for a second/third grade combo for online learning during COVID.
When asked about Clements teaching her daughters, Middleton replied, “It was great because she was part of the community. It was nice having that personal connection with her in my life and then to teach my daughters.”
Then the last stop of the journey, teaching fifth grade at LBMS for the 2022 -2023 school year.
In fifth grade she was reunited with student Willy Webbe, who volunteered in her classroom at Evergreen and then again at LBMS. “It was nice because I felt that I made a huge impact in his life.”
After 32 years of teaching in the Valley, Clements feels it is time to stop teaching because she is ready for her next adventure in life.
“Teaching has been my passion; I am good at it in many ways because I have all the right characteristics like empathy and excitement and can always find the good in kids.”
Clements wants to give all the administration and staff that she has worked with a big thank you. “They were always supportive and we worked as a team.”
Ending on a positive note, Clements said, “I wouldn’t have traded this. It’s what I was supposed to do.”
Please join Ms. Sally Clements at her retirement party at Jubilee Park Saturday, May 20 from 2 p.m. until dusk. All family and children are welcome. She would like it to be a mini-reunion with parents and students she has worked with throughout her years of teaching. Please bring chairs and your own food and drinks.
Thank you for your service Ms. Clements!