Bristol music teacher quits to care for mother
Hoots to stay involved as arts magnet chair

       Bristol Elementary music teacher Pam Hoots loves teaching and has helped guide the school's fledgling arts magnet program. But even more important to her is family. And her mother, who's been ailing, recently took a turn for the worse.
       So it was that Oct. 12 she told Principal Steve Ferguson that her retirement - which was to occur at the end of this school year - had to take effect now.
       “It's been very difficult to leave,” she said this week, “and that's an understatement. The kids didn't want me to leave, and the staff has been very supportive. I've gotten a lot of cards. I haven't had a chance to go through them.”
       The only alternative would have been to put her mother in a nursing home, and Hoots didn't want to do that. Family tradition, going back to her roots in Tennessee, has been to care for the elders. That's what her parents did, at different times providing homes for Hoots' grandmother and great-grandmother.
       Her mother, Betty Prentice, had herself been a teacher before quitting to raise her children. She'd also been a singer and dancer.
       “I was technically retired last year,” explained Hoots, who has been at Bristol 7 of her 24 years with District 11. “I was doing transition this year, trying to teach one more year. But now Mom needs oxygen at night, and we had to see a neurologist and a cardiologist. I'm at a point where I can't say school is where I want to be. There's too much going on.”
       Ferguson has taken two actions since Hoots' departure. He's hired a replacement for the rest of the semester - Jaime Askvig, a Denver University graduate who spent her last three years in Japan - and he's named Hoots the chair of the school's Arts Magnet Committee (a position he admitted he'd just created). His thinking is that she's likely to have pockets of free time while caring for her mother, probably more than when she was busy teaching.
       “I'm looking forward to that,” Hoots said. “We've been talking about it since I came on board at Bristol.”
       Bristol became the district's only arts magnet elementary in fall 2005, with the addition of a Suzuki violin program for grades K-1 and the expansion of the visual-art teacher's school time. Hoots helped support the designation by adding (in previous years) African percussion instruments and computerized music scoring to her lesson plans.

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