Grad Reflects on Life as Educator After Retirement
When Don Perkins was asked if he could do anything without any regard for money, he says that he would make sure every kid has a positive connection with an adult.
For the past five decades in his role as an educator, Perkins has been quietly influencing students and their parents and guiding them toward a bright future.
Perkins came to the University of Idaho in the early 1960s intending to become a Methodist minister. But education ran through his blood more than he realized and changed course to become a teacher.
The seed to become an educator was planted from an early age as he watched his mother teach kindergarten in their Lewiston home. His mom, Jeanette Mitchell Perkins, had received her two-year degree and taught in various small schools throughout northern Idaho and Spokane area before she returned to her roots. While raising three sons, she became more involved in teaching special education in the 1950s and decided to return to school to get her bachelor’s in education from University of Idaho.
“For two summers, I would drive my mom and I back and forth to Moscow for classes,” Perkins said.
As the oldest of seven children, Jeanette was a go-getter who managed teaching during the academic year, attending classes during the summer as well as seeing to her family and church life. “She was a pretty remarkable person.”
The determination paid off when Perkins and his mother walked together in Commencement in 1965 — both with education degrees. Jeanette also witnessed her two other sons David and Louis graduate from the UI.
Perkins married his then girlfriend Margaret, also an educator and Lewiston native, and they spent the next several decades in teaching and education in Oregon. Perkins went on to get his master’s in guidance and counseling and a doctorate in education administration. He worked for many years with the Oregon State Department of Education.
“One of the best parts of my career was being able to encourage positive involvement of kids, teachers and parents,” he said.
The Vandal has a passion for serving and is grounded in the value of teaching as a service. Though now retired in Arizona, he continued to give through volunteering his time in the community, church and talks about opportunities for being a mentor.
“If we were able to provide support to families to disadvantage kids, the future would turn out a whole lot different.”