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Retiring third-grade teacher gets visit from his third-grade teacher

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 5:48 p.m. MDT

Gwen Richards, 102, visits with former third-grade student Ross Durrant, who is retiring this week from Shelley Elementary School in American Fork after teaching for 30 years. Richards taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. (Sam Penrod, Deseret News) Gwen Richards, 102, visits with former third-grade student Ross Durrant, who is retiring this week from Shelley Elementary School in American Fork after teaching for 30 years. Richards taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. (Sam Penrod, Deseret News)

AMERICAN FORK — Third-grade teacher Ross Durrant will retire Thursday after 30 years at Shelley Elementary School.

On Tuesday, his own third-grade teacher 49 years ago, Gwen Richards, visited the school to wish him well in his retirement.

Richards, 102, taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. She advanced him to the fourth grade on May 28, 1965, and after all these years, still gives him a glowing report card.

"He was a hard worker,” Richards said. “He did all of his lessons, every one, and it was done beautifully and well. And he was good to all the boys and girls. He was well-behaved.”

Durrant called Richards' visit "the highlight of the school year.”

His students have been writing letters to Richards all year long, telling her about third grade in 2013.

Gwen Richards, 102, visits with former third-grade student Ross Durrant, who is retiring this week from Shelley Elementary School in American Fork after teaching for 30 years. Richards taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. (Sam Penrod, Deseret News) Gwen Richards, 102, visits with former third-grade student Ross Durrant, who is retiring this week from Shelley Elementary School in American Fork after teaching for 30 years. Richards taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. (Sam Penrod, Deseret News)

"They were very excited to receive a reply back,” he said. “We've written to her again, and she has been a wonderful influence in our class.”

Durrant said he looks forward to wishing his third-grade teacher a happy 103rd birthday on July 24.

Richards graduated from Snow College in 1929 and began teaching that same year. She married Fred Richards in 1930 and began a family.

At that time, married women were not allowed to teach school, she said, so her career was put on hold until 1942. The ban on married women teaching was lifted because of World War II.

Through the years, Richards taught penmanship, English and third, fifth and sixth grades. She was nominated for the National Teacher of the Year award in 1975.

"She has taught me a lot, not only as a teacher, but as a wonderful example and friend,” Durrant said.

Gwen Richards, 102, visits with former third-grade student Ross Durrant, who is retiring this week from Shelley Elementary School in American Fork after teaching for 30 years. Richards taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. (Sam Penrod, Deseret News) Gwen Richards, 102, visits with former third-grade student Ross Durrant, who is retiring this week from Shelley Elementary School in American Fork after teaching for 30 years. Richards taught Durrant during the 1964-65 school year at Forbes Elementary in American Fork. (Sam Penrod, Deseret News)

Richards retired from teaching in 1976, six years before Durrant started teaching.

Durrant said he has a lot of retirement plans, including substituting at Shelley Elementary from time to time, especially in the third grade. He said he couldn't have ended his career with a more enjoyable class of students.

Email: spenrod@deseretnews.com

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