Life is a highway

by Joey  |   

Patt and Pattie TruesdellThink your commute is rough? Meet the Truesdells, Pat and Patti. For years, Pat drove from Soldotna to UAA. Patti earned her education degree at Kenai Peninsula College (KPC), but now teaches 98 miles away at Hope School. It hasn't been easy. But neither would change a thing.

High school sweethearts, the Truesdells married young and raised four kids in Soldotna. Pat worked on the North Slope, Patti at the local hospital.

After 20 years, Pat made a change. "I remember one day I was walking across the hospital parking lot [at Patti's job] and kind of had an epiphany, that I had choices in life," he recalled. "I could go back and get an education."

"He was a role model," Patti said. When their kids came home, there was dad doing algebra homework at the kitchen table. Pat earned an associate degree from KPC in 1991, then headed to UAA for the social work program. For several years, he carpooled north each Monday and Wednesday - even for 8 a.m. classes.

Next was Patti's turn. "I got to a place where it seemed like everybody in my family had their college education except me," she said. "So I went to school and got mine." She studied education at KPC, graduating in 2002 at an age when many teachers think about retiring, and worked in various Peninsula schools before landing in Hope. "They didn't care I was 56 years old. They just needed a teacher," she said. "This community just wrapped their arms around me."

Education made a difference in their lives. Patti was named a 2016 BP Teacher of Excellence, and Pat owns Lighthouse Counseling in Soldotna. "I think education is the great equalizer in America," said Pat. "My way of thinking, it's probably the most valuable thing you can buy."

The Truesdells have been married 47 years and have 13 grandkids (two currently study at UAA). Patti's students tease her about senior citizen discounts on field trips, but she's not done teaching.

"I didn't get started on this until late, so I still feel like I'm challenged every single day," she noted. "I'm just happy with my life. [Getting an education] was the greatest decision I ever made."


This story originally appeared in the UAA Green and Gold News.