Ann and JD Drosche had five children of their own and adopted 17 special needs children. For 27 years a Drosche family member was in in Lori Blate’s Madera County Special Day Class housed on the campus of Yosemite High.
“Lori Blate is a once in a lifetime teacher,” Ann told Debbie Sebastian for a 2017 story in the Star. “She makes opportunities for her students where they are not existent. She is dedicated to each and every one of her students and is there for life, not just for their school career.”
This and similar comments will be echoed throughout the Mountain Area with the retirement announcement of Special Education Coordinator Lori Blate beginning this school year. Blate will retire after 35 years of teaching with 28 of those in Madera County.
“This has been a career I have not once regretted with these children,” Blate said. “I genuinely looked forward to both the challenges and triumphs each new day brought me. I tried to give my students a desire to learn new things.”
Blate believed her teacher role meant helping her students develop consumer and daily living skills. Blate’s students were completely integrated into campus life at YHS. Another key was allowing other YHS students to participate as student assistants in Blate’s class.
“That class was life-changing for me,” said Jake Dodderidge, a student assistant from 2001-2004. “I loved those kids with all my heart and I felt unconditional love from them. That is so rare in life. Mrs. Blate is all about unconditional love. We all felt it from her.”
Lori Blate was also a key part of any YHS event. She could be seen at the scorer’s table at every basketball game or in snack shacks. She has been a key partner to husband Gary Blate’s incredible success guiding the YHS girls basketball program.
For a time Blate was the YHS cheer coach and like her students and assistants, she had a major impact. “Lori was a great cheer coach,” Jody Burnett (Winters) said. “To this day, I don’t know how she did it. She worked full time and was a mother of four while coaching a bunch of crazy teenage girls.”
Burnett added, “She taught me the fundamentals while being focused on structure with respect. I will forever appreciate and admire her dedication to us as students. She has influenced me as a teacher. Lori Blate introduced me to a world of patience, love, and acceptance. I take that to work every day.”
Lori and Gary just celebrated their 40-year wedding anniversary. The Blates have four children: Mac, Jennifer, Karras, and Luke. All four of Gary’s and Lori’s children were teachers’ assistants in her classroom when they attended YHS. Daughter Karras Blate Hacker is now an education specialist at Carmel Creek Elementary School in San Diego and son Mac is a school counselor at Whitney High School in Rocklin. Mac and Karras each have two children. Mac, Jennifer, and Karras are Fresno State grads. Luke just graduated from Northern Arizona.
Going forward Lori will split time between Oakhurst and San Diego. “I look forward to a new chapter in my life sharing and having great experiences with my four young grandbabies,” Blate said. “I am truly not ready to retire in the sense of relaxing or slowing down. I will spend more time with the family. I hope to substitute teach from time to time. This is both a happy and sad time for me but it’s a new adventure I am ready to take on.”
“I would like to have the opportunity to share the great memories with each of my students, parents, classroom IAs and TAs both past and present,” Blate said.
Lori Blate’s retirement gathering will be at Oakhurst Community Park on Saturday, Sept. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Donuts, fruit and drinks will be provided.
“Bring a blanket or chairs and any outdoor games you want to share,” Blate said. “I am looking forward to my hugs!”