It isn’t something that happens often – being involved with one school and one district as a teacher, coach and administrator for 33 years.
But Patti Weldon did just that, joining Armstrong High School as a girls basketball coach and a physical education and health teacher for the 1986-87 school year and then becoming the activities director in the 2003-04 school year.
Now, after 17 years as activities director and 33 years in the Robbinsdale School District, Weldon is ready to step down and start a new chapter.
She made the difficult decision in February before the COVID-19 pandemic started affecting Minnesota schools and the pandemic had nothing to do with it.
“What’s your next chapter is something that I think everyone processes,” Weldon said. “There’s just been a lot of changes here at Armstrong over the last couple of years, and it is just time for me to make a change. It is time for me to have a change, and with all due respect, it is time for Armstrong to have a change in leadership and philosophy too.
“I just had a great experience here, and I wouldn’t change it for one thing. I just love the community. I love the kids. I just really enjoy the coaches and advisors that I work with.”
Weldon’s last official day was July 17, but the district hasn’t posted the position yet, and she is sticking around to help out for a few hours a week during the first few weeks of August to make sure nothing is missed in case fall sports is allowed to happen.
Helping the students, coaches and advisors is what brought her into the field in the first place, she said.
Weldon played basketball and participated in track and field in high school and went to Bemidji State University on a scholarship for basketball, where she played for four years.
It was then that she made a goal to be a coach, teacher and an administrator. Her career began in the Bloomington school district where she was an assistant basketball coach,
Then she got her big break as the head girls basketball coach at Armstrong, coaching teams to five conference championships and three state berths. She was also the physical education and health teacher, but coaching was her first love.
“I just felt that I could touch kids in a positive way with leadership skills with coaching, and so that was a great journey for me,” she said. “Basketball has always been my true love and just guided me at the right time.”
Some of Weldon’s fondest memories at Armstrong are as a coach. She enjoyed working with athletes to make them better basketball players and human beings. She enjoyed studying the game and scouting.
And she said she had great kids that might not be as recognized as others but were all a part of the Falcons’ great runs in the late 90s and early 2000s.
“I wouldn’t change those days for anything, and I stay in communication with a lot of those kids,” Weldon said. “That was just a great part of my journey if you will.”
Once 16 years had past, Weldon was then ready for the next step – moving on to be an administrator.
And the opening she went for was activities director at Armstrong High School. She got the job and the rest is history.
“To be a part of Armstrong High School one way or another, as a teacher and a coach and an administrator, not that many people get that opportunity or want to stay in the same district for that long,” Weldon said. “But for me, it was a dream come true to start and finish my career at one school.”
Weldon went from making a difference for basketball players to making a difference for all the kids in athletics, fine arts and in school clubs.
Weldon said that clubs have taken off in her time as activities director with the diverse school bringing opportunities for all students to enjoy extracurriculars and feel like they are a part of Armstrong, even if they aren’t on a field or on the stage.
There are over 50 clubs at Armstrong now, and that is something encouraged throughout the building.
“I am very fortunate that at Armstrong, staff and coaches alike, a lot of them are alumni, so there is that feeling of pride when you walk in the doors at Armstrong,” Weldon said. “And it is a great school, and a lot of people wanted to give back and came back as alumni teachers and/or coaches. That part of it was really important to me where we felt like we were in this community, this family.”
That made it even more difficult to deal with the pandemic to close out her time at Armstrong, not for herself but for the students.
The notion of having students lose out on the extended family of coaches, teachers, advisors and peers was tough to think about.
“Sure it was sad for me to kind of go out that way. But it really isn’t about me,” Weldon said. “It is about the kids. That’s why I am in this profession anyway. I just felt horrible that these kids had to go out this way. Regardless if they are a senior or underclassmen, they have missed out on a season and am kind of scared of, as we go into the next year, what it truly means for the up-and-coming year too for these kids.”
One thing that happened this year that is a positive to look at is Weldon winning the region 6AA and the Minnesota Activities Director of the Year awards earlier this year.
She said she is just one of many activities directors in the state that work hard and all of them are just as deserving of those awards as herself.
“I was very appreciative and humbled to be recognized for those awards,” Weldon said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to be recognized for hard work and dedication to Armstrong High School.”