Bennett Elementary teacher retires after 24 years of teaching

After 24 years as a teacher, Darla Clayton has retired from her position as the gifted and talented teacher for Bennett Elementary School and North Ridge Elementary School.

Clayton taught for 10 and a half years at Frenship before retiring in December. She retired before the end of the school year because of health issues, Clayton said.

“We’re going to take care of the grandkids and travel. I’m going to work part-time for my son, who’s a CPA,” she said, laughing at the idea of having her son for a boss. “I think I can handle it. I don’t know if he can. It’ll be different.”

She will also focus on her grandchildren, including two step-grandchildren aged five and seven and a new seven-month-old grandbaby.

Clayton said she took a leave midway through her teaching career and worked as a land administrator for an oil company. But she said while she took the leave from teaching so she could spend more time with her family, she always knew she would go back.

“I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was probably eight years old,” she said. “I just always knew that I wanted to teach.”

During her career, she taught pre-kindergarteners and students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade, as well as a preschool program for children with disabilities.

“I’ve tried everything,” she said.

In some ways, it is difficult to change grade levels as a teacher, she said.

“You tend to want to go from the lower grades and go up. It’s hard to go from an upper grade and go back down,” said Clayton. “Probably second and third grade were my favorite.”

Clayton said the thing she liked best about teaching was the children.

“The best thing about teaching is to watch the sparkle in their eyes when they learn something new, or they finally grasp a concept. I love making a difference in someone’s life, and you can really make a difference in a child’s life,” she said.

Her least favorite part of teaching was the paperwork.

Teaching gifted and talented students was very different, she said of her work during the last year and a half.

“It’s a lot more open-ended,” she said, with much less structure than a regular elementary classroom. “But the prep time and the research in order to set up their learning is quite involved.”

She said gifted students think differently, noting that they want to learn more in-depth information.

“I guess you’d call it more complex and in-depth learning,” she said. “They seek knowledge and they just drink it up.”

During her time as a teacher, she was teacher of the year three different times, and was Region 14’s teacher of the year in 1994 in Abilene.

“That was a big honor,” said Clayton.

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