NORTH SMITHFIELD – Over the past four decades, Patricia Kolanko has taught everything from child psychology to fashion design as a teacher at North Smithfield High School.

Following a school year cut short by closure due to COVID-19, Kolanko decided it was time to retire and join husband Frank Kolanko in the next phase of life.

But the students and colleagues she’s touched over the past 40 years still wanted to say goodbye.

On Wednesday, Sept. 10, dozens gathered at NSHS with signs, balloons and decorated cars to surprise the longtime educator, driving in a long line to her Providence Pike home.

The daughter of school committee chairman James Dalti and Nancy Dalti, Kolanko grew up in North Smithfield and was herself a graduate from NSHS in 1976.

She began her teaching career in North Smithfield and teaching classes including culinary arts, independent living and family consumer science.

For the past 20 years, she’s served as chairperson of school’s Career and Technical Arts Department and was involved in  other programs and committees, such as the pathways task force.

She was also the union building representative for the North Smithfield Teacher’s Association  and an active participant in adult womens’ indoor soccer.

In fact, Kolanko was second on the NSTA seniority list.

“Pat is a special person – very well liked, by both staff and students,” said high school Principal Timothy McGee. “She has devoted her whole life to the North Smithfield School District.”

The parade was organized with help from Kolanko’s colleagues, including teacher Kimberly Rawson, using social media for a callout to NSHS graduates. And on Wednesday afternoon, a long caravan briefly held up traffic along Providence Pike with beeping horns and blinking lights, escorted by North Smithfield police cruisers.

The teacher has two grown children, Stephanie, 31 and Michael, 29. On Wednesday, family members watched the parade pass, waving goodbye to a community grateful for her years of dedication.

Kolanko and family members watch from outside her Providence Pike home as the parade passes.

“Forty years in one district is rare, never mind having attended high school here for 7 years prior to teaching,” said McGee. “I want to wish her the best in her retirement.”

“It has been our community’s pleasure to have such a trusted, dedicated educator as one of our faculty members,” said McGee. “Her upbeat attitude and pleasant smile will be sorely missed.”

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