Eleven retirees from the Yosemite Unified School District (YUSD) represented a combined 275 plus years of experience. Three of the teachers retiring this year were a part of the Coarsegold Union School District before that district and the Yosemite Union High School District merged to form YUSD, following a voter approved initiative in November, 2005.
Retirees were asked what positions they held during their time at the school district, what changes they’ve seen in education, any special moments, and their plans after retirement.
* 21 years, teaching International Baccalaureate, (IB) Psychology, Sociology, Advanced Placement (AP) Government, and Economics.
She was a department chair for 17 years, coached the Mock Trial team for 17 years, was the Academic Decathlon team coach, chair of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and research science team coach for seven years. San Joaquin Writing Project, Senior Examiner for IB (continuing), State of California Behavioral Sciences Board governor appointee (continuing).
* Rewards of being in education: “Being able to have students who are successful in government, psychology or sociology who come back to be guest speakers.”
* Plans: book group once a month, golf, “reading novels and not having to read a ton of nonfiction and I don’t have to annotate everything,” kayaking with husband, Wayne
* Quote: “Wayne ‘ka’s’ and I ‘yak’.”
* 30 years as administrative assistant to YHS principal, and executive secretary to the superintendent and board of trustees.
* Changes in education: “The most significant change has been the declining enrollment and the difficulties that have come with it. The most positive is the effort made by the district to continue to offer the students we have now the same great classes and programs that were offered eight years ago when we had twice the number of students enrolled.”
* Plans: “My husband and I have always kept very busy with our kayaks, motorcycles and RVs. I think my retirement will continue to include all of that and more.”
* 20 years in YUSD as bus driver, custodian, warehouse, purchasing, operations facilitator, and operations supervisor.
* “Serving the staff and students of the district by working behind the scenes to maintain facilities and provide the necessary staff and set up for the many activities and sports is extremely fulfilling for me.”
* Particular incident: “In 2008, I was chosen Madera County School Employee of the Year - a great honor and a humbling experience, all in one.”
* Significant changes: “The ($11.76 million) bond that was passed (in 1998) provided the money for some incredible building projects. Modernization of many facilities as well as a new music building, remodeled theater, a pool and the Ansel Adams Building have provided some first class facilities for YHS ... I think the biggest influence on staff and students has been the merged district - Yosemite and Coarsegold.”
* Plans: “I want to spend more time playing my drums and practicing with our church worship team, riding my motorcycle, RVing with my husband; and, of course, more time with the grandchildren.”
* 22 years in YUSD as bus driver, utility worker, lead groundskeeper, warehouse, Special Education Department at Alternative Education Schools, and local California School Employees Association president.
* “Helping at risk students to pass the (California State) Exit Exam and congratulating them on graduation day has been the most fulfilling aspect of my career.”
* Particular incident: “During my time as a substitute bus driver, a student went into a diabetic coma. The student’s regular stop was the store in Yosemite Lakes Park. Unfortunately, she ended up at the Hensley Lake Ranger Station. I received help from one of the rangers while we waited for an ambulance to arrive.”
* “The most significant change for me was the passing of the bond that updated the look and feel of the high school. The addition of a swimming pool, state of the art track surface, updated cafeteria, improved library, new baseball fields and new classrooms all added up to an enhanced learning environment.”
* Plans: “I will be exploring my creativity and we (he and wife, Kathy) will be traveling as the mood suits us.”
* 11 years at YHS, teaching AP 2-D and 3-D and Drawing, IB Visual Art, Studio Art, Art 1 and 2, and managed the Badger Gallery featuring student work.
* “The most memorable part of my career as the art teacher at Yosemite is the many opportunities I had to teach past students for a second time. I taught first and second grade for eight years before coming to the high school. Some of these past students took art in high school and it was a lot of fun to get to know them all over again as teenagers. It was a joy to see how much they had accomplished in their lives.”
* “The most significant change in education that has impacted my art curriculum is that students no longer use cursive. This skill is essential in building drawing skills: beginning with the simple mechanics of a contour line and including the kinetic/brain activity that happens by letting your thoughts flow from a single line.”
“My four children, all graduates of YHS, are engaged in productive careers giving back to society in meaningful ways.”
* Plans: “I am looking forward to continuing on in education in a new location.”
* 38 years at YHS teaching Math and Computer Science/IT; department chair, boys soccer coach, JV girls volleyball coach (11 years), and campus emergency medical responder.
* “(I) brought the first computer onto campus, Apple IIe, in the fall of 1978.”
* Particular incident: “I will always cherish the opportunity to hand diplomas to my two boys. Perhaps the most memorable incident was being able to save a 16-year-old who had a spontaneous heart attack.”
Former students have become firemen, astrophysicists, engineers, psychologists, teachers and have joined the military.
“It is a wonderful thing to be working alongside so many teachers I taught when they were in high school.”
* Plans: “I look forward to spending more time seeing my kids and grandkids, serving with Madera County Fire, traveling with my wife and puttering around the house.”
* Quote: “Teaching is an unbelievably difficult profession, but carries great satisfaction.”
James W. Lee
* 16 years in YUSD, with BA in English, MA in linguistics, Juris Doctorate (JD); taught English 9, 10 and 12, JV assistant football coach, varsity assistant football coach, JV basketball coach, mock trial coach, and senior project facilitator.
“My previous students have chosen a plethora of careers, from welders and linemen to lawyers, teachers and doctors.”
He and his wife, Sheri, have two sons. Jayme, a YHS graduate, an engineer for Lockheed-Martin and Jayson, a senior next year at Clovis North.
* Plans: “Considering going back into the practice of law in some capacity; also considering growing some grapes for cousins who are winemakers.”
* 35 years with YUSD, teaching a variety of grade levels and electives; cheer, volleyball, basketball, track, pentathlon coach; student body adviser, yearbook adviser, gate teacher, mentor teacher, BTSA trainer/support provider, grant writer, community day school and homeschool/independent study teacher.
* Most fulfilling about career as an educator: “I loved to plan and direct (performances) and see children have a great time.”
* Particular incident: “I was informed by my principal, Dr. Susan Macy, that I would have a student in stage four cancer ... He had not been in school for awhile and wanted this experience to be good. Watching him come daily after chemo treatments, open up to his fellow students and watch them care deeply made my career choice clear. It isn’t about what you teach or how you teach it. It is about caring for and about who you teach. Towards the end of the year he was unable to come anymore. My class dedicated our performance to him. It was video taped and shown to him at the hospital.”
* Plans: “I want to be so distracted loving life, doing anything I want and helping where help is needed so I never realize I am getting older and life is short. Most of all, I want to spend more time with my mom who is 87, and my mother-in-law who is also 87.”
* 37 years in YUSD. “My first job was here at Coarsegold Elementary. I have taught first grade and kindergarten/first grade combination classes for all but one year when I taught a third/fourth combination class. I went to Rivergold the year it opened and in 1997 I taught in Devon, England, as part of the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program.”
Coordinator for Earth Day celebration and spelling bee, served on the School Site Council, summer school teacher, taught home economics electives and cooking classes, Reading Recovery teacher
“I will always remember my first year at Coarsegold. Single-wide portable, no skirting, no running water, farthest classroom from the bathrooms. We would visit other classrooms when it was too cold. We held class outside many times because it was so beautiful and I had so many parent helpers. I had an amazing class my first year.”
“Small world-my daughter, Annie, married a former student, Brandon Matthews.”
* Significant changes in education: “Schools continue to be the center of the community. We need to advocate for children (to ensure) they have an excellent quality of education.”
* Plans: “I am looking forward to making my own schedule, re-connecting with friends, spending more dedicated time with my husband and family. Learning Tai Chi and a few new dances, digging in the dirt, and being a human being.”
She served more than 35 years at YUSD.
* 11 1/2 years at YHS as campus supervisor, career center tech, library tech, summer front desk, and para educator/
* Most fulfilling part of career: “Helping kids find their path after graduation while working in the career center.”
* Particular incident: “I had been working in the library for a year and then they decided to put me in a geometry class as a para (educator) for a semester. That was the most rewarding semester of all my years at YUSD. I loved the challenge and the students were just amazing.”
* Plans: “I am barrel racing like crazy.”
* Quote: “I not only made wonderful friends but I, too, learned a lot at YHS.”