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Auditorium renamed to honor longtime educator (Video)

By Carolina Astrain
Dec. 4, 2012 at 6:04 a.m.
Updated Dec. 5, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.

Patti Welder Middle School counselor of 53 years, Barbara Sutter hugs former student and now teacher at Patti Welder, David Urbano at the dedication of the former Panther Hall in Victoria.  "When you walked in and out of her office, you knew you were the most important person to her in that moment," Urbano said. "She always spoke to you with dignity, no matter who you were."

Her leopard loafers stood on familiar ground at Patti Welder Middle School.

Barbara Sutter, 82, smiled and greeted former students and colleagues outside her old counseling office.

The campus staff amassed an audience Wednesday afternoon to dedicate the middle school auditorium, formerly Panther Hall, in Sutter's name.

With 60 years of education under her belt, Sutter retired in May.

In her retirement, Sutter said, she has kept busy with church activities and a local choral group.

"It was tough the first week of school. She wanted to be here so bad," said her daughter and Cade Middle School teacher Kathy Sheldrup.

Sutter, a former speech teacher, said the school's talent show used to be her favorite time of year.

"I loved seeing the students sing," she said. "We used to sing songs from Peter, Paul and Mary."

Gary Moses, a former student and co-worker, opened the ceremony with a few words before a plaque outside the hall with Sutter's name and portrait.

"To know you and to work with you has been a blessing," Moses said. "She was here at all hours and was here for all of us."

Inside the auditorium, which was built after the fire of 1985, Sutter's name was painted along side the wall in cursive writing by Ralph Manatra, the middle school's art instructor.

With a teaching career that spanned beyond the initial sparks of the civil rights movement, Sutter recalled rallies and protests that occurred at the middle school.

"I remember my first African-American student," Sutter said. "He was later killed in college."

At Patti Welder, the Hispanic student population is five times greater than the black population, and three times greater than the white population.

A current recipient of the Texas Title I Priority Schools grant, the middle school was identified as one the state's most struggling campuses, according to the Texas Education Agency.

With a population of about 911 students, the student to teacher ratio is 13-to-1 - one of the largest gaps in the district, according to Zillow.com, a real estate website.

Sutter said the budget cuts to the arts programs in public schools are one of the greatest losses suffered by students today.

"I know former students of mine that are in prison, and it hurts to see them there," Sutter said. "We need to keep our kids involved."

Sutter's green eyes looked up and down the halls with a fixated gaze, her mouth trembling with memories of the past.



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