Surprise send-off: 'Truly phenomenal' special ed teacher retires after 37 years at Oak Lawn school

'She's gentle, she's patient, she's loving. She always leads with her heart.'
OAK LAWN, Ill. (WLS) -- There was a surprise send-off for a beloved special education teacher in southwest suburban Oak Lawn Friday.

Current and former students were on hand for to surprise Pat Ryan as she retired after 37 years at Lawn Manor School.

"I was shocked. I didn't expect that. It touched my heart," Ryan said. "I will remember you guys forever, thank you."

Ryan's daughter started plotting with the school staff weeks ago to surprise her with a goodbye celebration that included all her immediate family, and even some from out of town.

Ryan's daughter Jeannette Vadbunker is also a special ed teacher in another district.

"She's gentle, she's patient, she's loving," Vadbunker said. "She always leads with her heart."

"Everyone is going to miss her," parent Michelle Higgins said. "It takes a special person to be a teacher, but she was really, truly a phenomenal teacher."

"She's a good listener to her students, making sure she's making them excited about learning," Lawn Manor Principal Heather Wills said.

"Work on the whole child, not just reading and math," Ryan said. "Whatever they come in with, that's what we work with. If they are having a bad day, we try and make it better."
28-41 there's a lot of good memories a lot of good families. That you remember

Ryan said she isn't ruling out the possibility to come back to substitute teach occasionally. But for now, her other daughter's wedding is coming up, and she wants to travel and enjoy the summer with her family.

"I want to have fun, too," Ryan laughed.
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