For Pat Meade, all roads always seem to lead back to St. Joseph School in DeWitt.
Now, for the third time in his career, he’s back.
Some of the faces of his co-workers may have changed, but much of it still is comfortably familiar.
Even the gymnasium smells exactly the same, which makes it feel a bit like coming home again.
When Meade first started teaching at St. Joseph School in DeWitt in 1982, he admitted, his heart wasn’t really in it.
After all, it wasn’t a high school.
Meade wanted to teach high school students and be a varsity football coach.
That wasn’t going to happen at St. Joseph, a school that houses children in preschool through eighth-grade.
But it didn’t take long for the staff and students to completely win him over.
“I fell in love with the place,” he said with a smile. “I taught K-8 physical education and seventh- and eighth-grade social studies and science. The days flew by … I can’t get over it. They literally flew by.”
He was there for seven years, when a job opportunity opened up at Central DeWitt High School.
The school needed a new social studies teacher and Meade admitted, he needed the challenge.
So, he made the switch, and taught at the high school for nine years. He also coached multiple sports and was the athletic director for seven of those years.
But by that time, he had children of his own — children he wasn’t seeing as much as he would have liked, given his busy schedule.
So, when the principal job at St. Joseph opened up, Meade made his return.
Not only did it feel good to be back, but an added bonus was that his three children, Becky, Bridget and Patrick, all attended the school, so he was able to see them every day.
Meade oversaw the student body at St. Joseph for nine years. Then, another opportunity at another school — this time, in another district — presented itself.
Once again, he found himself leaving his beloved St. Joseph.
“Becky was leaving for college,” Meade recalled. “There was an opportunity for a job at George Washington Carver Elementary in Dubuque.”
So, in 2006, Meade, together with his wife and fellow educator, Mary Jane, and their two children, who still were living at home at the time, moved to Dubuque.
Well, sort of.
A self-described “farm boy,” Meade said living city of Dubuque didn’t appeal to him. He preferred the more quiet, rural charm of Dyersville.
After two years at the elementary school, Meade received a call from the parish priest.
“He asked if I would consider taking the principal job at Beckman High School,” Meade related. “I said, ‘I’m pretty happy where I’m at.’ But, he was pretty persuasive.”
For 10 years, he was principal at the Catholic high school, while Mary Jane worked at Marshall Elementary in Dubuque.
But all the while, Meade said he knew at some point in time, he would go back to St. Joseph.
His cousin, Tom Meade, had retired from teaching and had taken the job as physical education teacher at St. Joseph.
The two kept in touch; Meade knew he wanted to end his career at the same school where it began.
“I had conversations with Tom about how long he thought he wanted to do that,” Meade related. “I always thought I would make it back someday.”
After retiring from Beckman last year, Meade was poised to take his cousin’s place when the time came.
As it turned out, he only had to wait a year.
After Tom retired from St. Joseph at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, Meade became the new physical education teacher.
His children are now grown, and Meade and Mary Jane, for now, still live in Dyersville. Mary Jane is an instructional coach at Marshall Elementary, but when she retires the plan is for the couple to return to the local area.
Meade credits his wife of 33 years for many things. One of which is her gift for being an exceptional educator; however — as he said with a smile — it hell going home every night knowing he the second-best teacher in the house.
But most of all, he is thankful to her for encouraging him through each and every change in his career.
“To end up at this job at this school is wonderful,” he shared. “I’ve always looked at moves as an adventure. Mary Jane never hesitated once. She been so supportive through the years and that sure makes a big difference.”
All in all, Meade considers himself one of the most fortunate people in the world.
He stumbled into a career he loves, has lived in very good communities and has a loving family who has supported him through it all.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
“To find an occupation you truly enjoy … that is something special,” Meade said. “The kids and families at St. Joseph and Central DeWitt always made me feel welcome. You don’t get it right all the time; sometimes you’ve got to keep trying until you figure it out. But I’m so glad to be back in the area, so glad to be back at St. Joseph and I’m fortunate to have chosen (a career) where I feel I’m really accomplishing something.”