“California Teachers: Inspiring Generations” is the theme for the this year’s California Day of the Teacher, which will be celebrated on May 13.
“For many educators, teaching and providing all students a first-rate education has been a family tradition,” said E. Toby Boyd, president of the 310,000-member California Teachers Association. And while the last months of inspiring, above and beyond work by teachers is being appreciated across the state, it has been happening for generations. “California is fortunate to have a team of skilled, caring educators and college faculty who have taken on the role of essential workers during the current unprecedented global pandemic, making it possible for students to continue to learn during this uncertain time,” he said.
Here are just a few CTA members whose families made inspiring students a priority for generations.
The Sanchez Family– Winton, San Jose
The Sanchez family has been inspiring and teaching students for three generations. The youngest, Renata, says her mother and grandmother “inspired me to see teaching as a way to change lives.” An instructional coach supporting TK-5th grade at Allen At Steinbeck Elementary in San Jose, Renata says “I love being able to make a concrete difference in the lives of kids by giving them tools to be their best selves and to be successful as they grow up.”
Her mom, Margaret Sanchez, Winton Teachers Association, teaches second teaches at Crookham Elementary School in Winton (near Merced) and Renata’s grandmother, Hilda Freeman, taught second and third grades in Merced and San Jose. A daughter of two German immigrants, Hilda was a second-language learner when she started school in 1931. She was the only one of six children in her family to attend college. Renata says that while her grandmother “loved teaching and working with the students back then, she dreaded having to teach music because she was tone deaf.”
The Ceballos / Fee Family – Fairfield-Suisun
The Crystal Middle School Library in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District is dedicated to Anne Ceballos. It is also where her son-in-law, Ed Fee, currently works. “I actually have mom’s job,” says her daughter, Jennifer Fee. Jennifer is a special education resource teacher at Gale Wilson, her brother Michael Ceballos teaches in Dover (Sacramento). All are members of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association.
Their parents, Anne and Richard, left a legacy of teaching for their students and for their children. Anne, a special education teacher in Dover until the 1990s, spent the last few years of her life as a mentor teacher and coach until she died from cancer in 2003. Richard Ceballos taught various subjects and served as a school administrator in Vallejo, Napa, and numerous school districts before retiring to take care of Anne.
“We grew up in a family of teachers,” says Jennifer and Michael. Neither thought teaching would be their calling until they experienced other professionals and ultimately returned home. “We wanted to do our own thing in college,” says Michael, so the siblings worked in retail, corporate training, and the movie and wine industries. As the kids returned home, Jennifer did the initial research and got into a credential program. When Michael came back, he entered the program and, after a career change, Ed followed suit six months later. “Teaching called me home. I was drawn back into teaching because of my family experiences,” said Michael. “I love it – the relationships with students and other teachers. I really is just like being around other educators. It’s in my nature to teach. I love being in an environment where students learn and grown, and where they are successful.”
“I should have done it a long time ago. I like working with people, I love my colleagues at school. I’ve always been a good student, so it was not rocket science,” says Jennifer. “All three of us are career changers. It’s nice going to work every day and doing something that is so satisfying.”
The Belcher Family – Irvine / Orange County
“I am a California teacher, the daughter of retired teacher parents. My aunt and uncle and his brother and his wife are all retired teachers. I think we are quite a teacher family,” said Lauren Belcher, Irvine Teachers Association.
Helping students make educated decisions about their lives. See students grow in their understanding and ability to predict outcomes. Those are just a few reasons teaching became a family tradition.
Dad Bruce taught American History, World History, health, PE, child development, among other topics, over his career. In addition, he coached football, track & field, and golf. “Being around young people keeps you young. That is why in retirement I am still coaching,” he says.
Mom Mary taught a variety of child development and leadership development classes for Head Start volunteer parents and is a professor emeritus of Early Childhood Education at Orange Coast College. “I loved teaching young children and then teaching adults about the art and science of teaching young children,” she said. “I found that in my life as a teacher that the good days far exceeded the bad and the joys far exceeded the disappointments. I can’t imagine a job that could have been more rewarding for me.”
Lauren says discovery comes with learning. “For me, teaching is an act of helping others with self-discovery and the ability to express their revelations. I get to do to teach my students to look at how others use language and design, how we can connect and relate to others’ expressions of themselves, and how we can use language and design to communicate to the world. Watching students determine the meaning of a metaphor or find the just right word in writing, or breaking down the evocation of emotion a color or texture provides excites me. Their discovery, the learning process, creates a shared connectedness with the human experience. I learn from them, about their ideas, who they are, but mostly, who we are as people. The collective consciousness of the classroom is a microcosm of the evolution of humanity. I get to watch it and be a part of it in real time.”
The Case/Brackett Family – Willits and Santa Rosa
As Kelley Case Brackett and Cim Case grew up whenever they would go out, inevitably “former students would come up to my dad and talk to him and ask how he was doing. Even when by myself, they would ask me about him. That made me happy to see how my dad made an impact on young people,” said Kelley. After serving in the Vietnam War, their dad, Douglas Case, took an opportunity to go to Camp Cazadero and be a science counselor/teacher for a week. He was voted the best teacher for the week and a 32-year teaching career was launched. He taught various subjects in grades 5 – 8. Cim (pronounced Kim) teaches history in a continuation school in Santa Rosa.
Kelley says she contemplated her love of working with kids and with animals when she realized she could work with both as an ag teacher.
“I teach Willits High School students about agriculture related topics — biology, agriculture and soil chemistry, ag systems management, ornamental horticulture, otherwise known as plant science.” She is also the Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor, which has changed considerably since the 1980s. “We do more than farming,” she says. “Our program includes leadership, business and technology.”
Three Generations in McKinleyville: Nolan, LeBlanc and Welsh
The love of “opening up kids’ eyes to just how good life is” and the “daily inspiration gained from learning with and from students” prompted Phyllis Nolan to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a teacher in McKinleyville. She teaches fourth grade at Morris Elementary. Her daughter Taylor followed in her footsteps, too.
“A fun factoid is that my dad taught biology, art, world cultures, and college-level education courses at McKinleyville High, which is where my daughter now teaches English. I had him as a teacher every single year of my own high school experience and he is still, hands down, the most gifted educator I have ever had the pleasure of learning from.”
Her father, Jim Welsh, was also the union president for many years and “actually worked to save McKinleyville High school from being closed when enrollment was low,” Nolan noted. “He has inspired many in our family to be actively involved in our local unions.”
Nolan is currently co-president for McKinleyville Teachers Association and Taylor serves as a building representative.
Jerilyn Harris and Kelli Harris Wong – Ukiah and Healdsburg
Kelli Harris Wong is a first grade teacher, EL coordinator and instructional coach in the Healdsburg Unified School District. Her mother, Jerilyn Harris, teaches at Ukiah High School.
Kelli was going to conquer the world doing public relations until she volunteered in a third grade classroom. “That was it, I was hooked. I saw the reason my mom loved teaching,” she said. It’s about “changing a child’s world, one lesson, one experience, one memory, one day at a time. I remember thinking, I write a press release and the company’s stock goes up. I teach a child how to multiply – well, that is worth a whole lot more in the long run.”
“My mom recently received a note from a former student sharing how much my Mom made a difference by believing him and by challenging him,” Wong added. “She changed his world back in the 1990s and just now found out about it.”