Patrick Layden is a bit reluctant to admit that he once thought of quitting teaching.

Patrick Layden is a bit reluctant to admit that he once thought of quitting teaching.

“There comes a time, in any profession, when you get burned out, and teaching is no exception,” Layden said Friday. “I think in any profession, you need renewal.”

Then perhaps winning two awards Friday morning during the annual Independence School District Teacher of the Year event will give him the “renewal” he needs.

Layden’s two awards – one for Teacher of the Year at Van Horn High School and the other for Teacher of the Year within the district  – were bestowed upon him with loud enthusiasm. Many of the dozen teachers and administrators gathered together could be heard saying how deserving the 33-year-old teacher was of the award.

How once he thought of getting out of teaching all together.

“Yes, I’d thought of it,” he said quietly.

“But this isn’t something you can get out of easily. I love everything about this job.”

Layden teaches social studies at Van Horn High School, one of seven facilities that were taken over by the district from the Kansas City School District last year. The approximately 600 students at Van Horn are from Sugar Creek, western Independence and the Blue Summit area, or unincorporated Jackson County.

While he certainly wasn’t the only one responsible, Layden helped in making the transition at Van Horn run smoothly.

“There was an identity that’s typically at schools that wasn’t there  at Van Horn,” he said.

 “There were a lot of things that were falling through the cracks, many things that were going unnoticed.”

Events like the school parade, variety show, its homecoming – they returned to Van Horn, helping to strengthen a school that was in 2007 losing its identity.

“I couldn’t ask for a better staff and group of kids,” he said.

This is Layden’s 10th year teaching social studies. He began his teaching career at William Chrisman following graduation from Park University in Kansas City. Originally he thought of going into business and/or theology, but when he took social studies-related courses, he discovered that he enjoyed it. He knew, though, that jobs in that field were difficult to find – much less identify.

“A friend suggested that I teach,” he said.

So he did, returning to the Independence School District from where he himself graduated from high school.

“My family has roots in this district,” he said. Currently, two of his cousins work in the district, and he can trace his family’s graduation tree (so to speak) as far back as 1890.

“I belong here,” he said.

 In addition to teaching, he also serves as a learning coach for new teachers.

For the future, Layden said he wants to continue teaching – in spite of having acquired a masters. in educational administration in 2005. He said moving into an administrative position is indeed appealing, but the classroom...

Ah, the classroom.

“I love it.”