The Art of Teaching: Terry Fitzgerald Reflects After Forty Years in Education

Terry Fitzgerald Teacher Appreciation Week 2019 photo

Terry Fitzgerald has been with the Ferndale School District for 31 years and has been a teacher for 40. His journey started with an inspirational middle school art teacher and an experience watching a stage play that prompted him to consider how visual arts could play a role in the performing arts space. 

Fitzgerald teaches 9th-12th graders at Ferndale High School and says, “Almost every day as a teacher is my best day. I get a kick out of seeing a student figure something out or just helping a student through their day. We forget that for some students this is the best place they get to be.”   

Following his graduation from Western Washington University, Fitzgerald has taught thousands of students. He recalls, “I’ve had about 14,000 students over the years, most I remember. In the not too distant past, I had a freshman student who I invested in as a teacher. I had him in my classes for all 4 years of his high school career. He ate lunch in my room most of the time. He even ate lunch with a girl for the last couple of years. He graduated from FHS and I was invited to his graduation celebration. I remember telling his Mom at that event that he would be a real leader someday. He went on to graduate from WWU, married that girl he ate lunch with, and eventually became a father and community leader. What a privilege to know this young man and so many students like him.” 

Ferndale High School Principal Jeremy Vincent talks about what Terry has meant to Ferndale High School. “Terry is beloved by his fellow-teachers and by students. His talent and passion for education will be missed on this campus.” Vincent goes on to say, “Terry is renowned for the sets that he has designed in support of our Ferndale School District Drama program. I would describe his work as legendary.” 

Legendary and recognized by the 5th Avenue Theater many times.  

In addition to his sets, Fitzgerald has left a different kind of legacy in his students. He says that he has enjoyed seeing how art has made a difference for students and is always happy to have students return to his classroom to share updates about life, school and careers. He reflects, “There is nothing like the feeling that you helped get them to the next step. I really like having the opportunity to introduce my former students to my current students – I like to show them off a bit!” 

Ferndale School District Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sends best wishes, “It has been an honor to see Terry in action in Ferndale. He has inspired students to access their creativity which is hugely important. I want to thank Terry for the years he has dedicated to building beautiful sets and sparking joy as an art teacher. I also want to thank him for the times he has leant a hand and his artistic talent to help me out with a district project.  We will miss Terry and I send congratulations and best wishes on behalf of the entire District.” 

When asked what he will miss about teaching at Ferndale, Fitzgerald says, “I will miss the students - especially the Advanced Art classes. I will miss set painting, murals, and community art projects. It may sound funny but I will never forget how much pizza my students ate as we worked together to finish those big projects!” 

As Mr. Fitzgerald signs off, we raise a paintbrush and a slice of pizza to his retirement. We will miss him at Ferndale High School but his legacy will live on in students and the many sets he leaves behind.  

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This story is brought to you as part of a series of stories about our teachers in the Ferndale School District. Teacher Appreciation Week is being celebrated May 6th – May 10th in the Ferndale School District and around the country.