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After husband's cancer diagnosis, former principal returns to teach

Patricia Byrd's husband is in remission, but her love of kids has kept her teaching

CEDAR HILL, Texas — When Patricia Byrd retired five years ago, she says it gave her plenty of time to play in the dirt.

Although, when she plays, she’s not playing.

“If I have a job digging a ditch, I promise you I will dig a ditch better than any ditch you have ever seen,” she said.

That work ethic led Byrd from a seven-year teaching career to a job as the first African American principal at Bray Elementary in Cedar Hill. She eventually became a superintendent outside the district.

In all, she dedicated more than 30 years to education before retiring in 2016.

She planned to spend retirement traveling with her husband until her husband, Lawrence, was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of prostate cancer.

“I had to choose, will my husband live or will my husband die?” Byrd asked. “And I chose that he would live. All I knew is that I needed to dig in, sacrifice myself on his behalf because that’s what love does. Love sacrifices itself.”

With medical bills piling up, Byrd stepped out of retirement and stepped back into the classroom.

She’s qualified to lead the district, but now she’s teaching fourth graders at Plummer Elementary in Cedar Hill.

“I don’t know many women that probably would do that,” Lawrence said. “For her to give up everything, that’s an incredible woman.”

More surprising is that her husband is in remission and the medical bills are manageable. Byrd could’ve gone back into retirement a while ago and yet, even during a pandemic, she’s still teaching.

“It’s all about the kids,” Lawrence said. “It’s all about the kids.”

No wonder her students have the highest scores in the district and the highest praise for their teacher.

“I think she is nice and kind,” said student Brooklyn Phillips.

“One of the best teachers I’ve ever had,” student Xavier Thaddies said.

“Yes, she’s one of the best,” said another student, Jayci Mathis.

Byrd hasn’t thought about another retirement because getting back to teaching may have been a way to save her husband, but it’s always given her life.

“I love these kids to the extent that I will take on giants for them,” she said. “Just knowing that I’m influencing the trajectory of their futures, yeah, it’s energizing. Just knowing that I’m making that difference, it makes me get up.”

When you love something so much, there’s no reason to quit.

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