Mr. John Walsh
Alta Vista Elementary and Intermediate Schools in Questa are lucky to have John Walsh on their faculty. He and his wife retired and moved to San Cristobal to live near their daughter, Elizabeth, who is also an educator. Even though he turned 71 on Super Bowl weekend, he still has a lot to offer his students. He loves the energy at Alta Vista, and he loves being around kids.
Mr. John, as his students call him, grew up in Silver City, NM, where he married his high school sweetheart, Ida Belle. They both attended WNMU; she went into education and he majored in chemistry and worked as a chemist in the mining industry.
Retirement didn’t really suit them so it didn’t last long. John began driving a bus for the Taos Schools and then became a full-time substitute teacher. He was then hired as a PE teacher at Alta Vista and now also teaches math and social studies, which he loves. Ida Belle is also in the classroom again, as an educational assistant at Alta Vista, teaching reading to kindergartners. Her students call her Miss Ida. She is in the process of renewing her teaching license from 1976!
John began sharing elementary student classroom work with the Questa Del Rio News—lucky us!—for the “Sproutings” feature in our education section. As a boy in Silver City, John was a paperboy for four years for the Silver City Daily Press, on a 12-mile route he covered on his bicycle for 60¢ a week (because he spent the majority of his profits on comic books). He also loved reading Jack London books, which taught him to heed the call to adventure. There’s a special place in his heart for small town newspapers like the Questa Del Rio News. After graduating from college, John and Ida Belle moved to Playas, NM where John worked in the mining industry.
When John was a kid he so loved to read, he would sneak a flashlight under the covers at bedtime: “A book is a wonderful thing.” It makes him sad that young people now don’t have the same passion for reading. It’s not the same, he says, reading from a cell phone, iPad, or computer screen. He noticed that when learning went virtual during the pandemic the students really fell behind.
John was raised in a family of seven brothers and five sisters, so he has a high tolerance for chaos. He attended eight years of Catholic elementary school, where he got the heck beat out of him by nuns. He can relate to those students in his class who have a tough time staying on task. Then at Jesuit high school, it was the Jesuit priest that gave kids demerits, which led to the gym teacher taking a sawed off softball bat, have you grab your ankles, and whop. In spite of the harsh discipline (which nowadays is called abuse), he made it through. In a family with 13 kids, his parents wanted him to have a good education. His dad was a surgeon and a leading member of the community in Brooklyn. He often said his education was the benefactor that allowed him his life choices, stressing the word “choices.”
Reading is a family thing, he says, and he encourages all parents to support students to read at home. Mr. John does add that the students help him a lot with technology—they’ve taught him a bunch. He now provides bikes to the Summer Reading program at the Questa Library in a program called “Bikes for Books.” He says if you fish with the right bait, you will catch plenty of fish!
One of John’s proudest achievements was living in a tipi in the Yukon with his wife and two daughters. He admits to being a tree-hugger. They had a dog team, they were all warm, safe, and cozy and had everything they needed. The girls were homeschooled and the whole family read alot. After a year or so, the Canadian Mounties found them and kicked them off the public land. Who knows where their life journey would have taken them, had they not been uprooted?
From there, John was not keen about returning to his former career as a chemist and called the next phase of their lives “from freezer to frying pan.” He and Ida Belle moved to Phoenix and both started a medical massage practice after training there. In Los Lunas, NM they worked out of John’s sisters’ clinic, helping clients with worker comp injuries. They also spent many years renovating a 2,500-sq.-ft. adobe home that was built in 1850. They had finally found that feeling that comes with self-actualization. It was a good time, and their young family thrived.
When John’s mother died, it was time for another change, so they chose to retire and moved again. The daughters grew up and moved away.
The funniest part about his PE teacher role during COVID-19 was a virtual comedy: barking like the neighbor’s dog was chasing you down the street, while having the kids run around their Zoom portal living room or bedroom trying not to get bit. Now, as a 4th-grade teacher, his favorite PE activity has been accompanying the students on ski trips. QISD students from first through twelfth grades all receive four free ski days and ski lessons this winter, thanks to funding through the school board. Other school districts offer ski days, but students have to pay and it isn’t cheap. He had several students in class who kept saying they didn’t want to ski; but after one beginner lesson and numerous falls, they were all beaming and fired up by the end of the day.
Mr. John would like to give a shoutout to Red River Ski Area for agreeing to sponsor Questa Schools with open arms and welcoming them with friendly faces.
He also wants our readers to know that we ought to be proud of Alta Vista: it’s a great staff, a great school, and they really work well together as a team. He praises Kimber MacDonald for doing such a fine job as principal. He calls Alta Vista a quality product, heading in the right direction.
Mr. Walsh likes living in a small town: it’s a web of families—people know and help one another. He tries to bring a positive spin to everything he does. He and Ida Belle love being part of the Questa and San Cristobal communities and the community at Alta Vista is happy to have them here working to benefit our young people!