The last of Greg and Angela Bates’ 11 children graduated from high school last week, which culminated nearly three decades of their children attending Alpine School District schools.

To mark the occasion, the couple took out a full-page ad in the Deseret News’ May 26 weekend edition to express gratitude to teachers, bus drivers and custodians “who cleaned up after our children and dumpster dived to find lost retainers!”

There were shoutouts to librarians, school resource officers, principals, counselors, school nutrition workers and even substitute teachers. They thanked nurses, crossing guards and secretaries, many of them by name.

The ad was signed “With gratitude and admiration,” by the couple and their children, all Mountain View High School alumni, in order of age: Hannah, Greer, Hugh, Meredith, Abby, Owen, Bronwyn, Gideon, Hope, Simeon and Isaac.

The ad, part thank-you card, part love letter to public education, said, “Thank you for helping our children have an excellent home-centered, school-supported education.”

“That’s really what we wanted it to be. I mean, we feel such a debt of gratitude,” said Angela Bates.

Bates, who grew up in Pennsylvania and was educated in parochial schools, said she was initially skeptical about their children attending public school.

“But we’ve had such a positive experience. I feel like public schools, and I’m guessing this is everywhere, but I know especially in Utah, they have gotten a bad name. I feel badly for that. I don’t feel like that represents most people’s experiences and certainly doesn’t represent ours,” she said.

At times, the Bates had children at four different schools and they drove a 15-passenger van. Bates jokes that she wishes there had been a crockpot she could have plugged into her vehicle, so she could have prepared meals as she ferried the children to and from school and to activities and sports practices.

Bates said the family appreciated educators’, administrators’ and other school employees’ efforts, large and small, which included the quick pivot to distance learning during the pandemic.

They watched their daughter, who taught band at Lehi Junior High, learn on the fly how to conduct band classes on a digital platform. Their son’s football coaches figured out how to safely conduct practices and team meetings.

“I just felt like everyone did their best to try to make a bad situation better,” Bates said.

Asked to comment on the Bates’ bouquet to educators and other school employees who had supported their children during their public school years, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson said it was “a great example of parents and educators working together in the best interest of their children. This kind of partnership is an essential ingredient for successful outcomes for all students.

“Thank you to the Bates for taking the time to acknowledge all of the educators who impacted their children’s education,” Dickson said.

The Bates children found advocates in unlikely places, like the time their then third-grade son climbed into the car after school and declared, “Today was the best day of my life.”

“I said, ‘Wow, what happened?’”

“He says, ‘Sheri let me help her clean all the tables after lunch today!’”

It meant so much to him to be seen as an individual, “especially coming from a big family. Sometimes I’m sure our kids felt lost in all the numbers of children and I’m sure they got called other brothers’ and sisters’ names when they were in school. But so many of the teachers went out of their way to get to know them individually and to find something to make them feel important,” Bates said.

As their youngest child Isaac’s senior year wound down and the family attended school activities and events for the final time, it’s been bittersweet.

“Honestly, for so many years, I just looked forward to this. I thought ‘This is the last time we have to worry about an ACT score or a project that’s due or anything like that.’ But just last year as it’s been wrapping up it’s just been I’ve just found myself getting choked up and nostalgic and different things as the last events happened in high school,” she said.

Bates said she probably won’t feel the effects of her children’s public school experiences ending until next fall when there’s no football games or marching band competitions on the family calendar.

“I keep telling myself and my husband, I will have to go back over to the football games because I’ll miss those. There is not a more beautiful high school football stadium in the country, I’m convinced, than the Bruin Bowl in Orem. On a fall night you just can’t beat the views,” she said.

But in recent years, Mountain View’s football teams have struggled mightily.

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Last fall, the school won just one game. Regardless of the opponent or often lopsided scores, the Bruins “played their hearts out,” she said.

“Our last three boys played football and I told them I learned a lot from them because they would be down sometimes by 50 points at halftime, like at 50 to nothing. I would often think ‘Why not just slip out, just leave the stadium?’ But they’d come back out after halftime and finish the game. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from them about grit and to keep going during hard situations,” Bates said.

Over 28 years of their children attending four Alpine District schools, the Bates had long wanted to do something to say “thank you” to everyone who supported them in good times and bad.

“I told my husband I’ll regret this forever if we don’t do it this time because this is the last chance we have,” she said.

The Bates siblings gather after the youngest graduated May 25 from Mountain View High School in Orem. The parents took out a full-page ad in the Deseret News to thank all of the educators, school support staff and friends in the community who helped their kids succeed. | Deseret News
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