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Publication Date: Friday, June 15, 2001

Retiring teacher brought creativity to literacy Retiring teacher brought creativity to literacy (June 15, 2001)

Fairland's Ruth Hoyt among 28 veteran employees leaving school district

by Stephanie Ericson

This month the Pleasanton school district says good-bye to 20 educators - 18 teachers, a psychologist and the adult education principal - who are concluding careers of service to generations of youngsters, and eight other employees.

Among them is Ruth Hoyt, 60, retiring after 28 years teaching in Pleasanton at Walnut Grove and Fairlands elementary schools. Hoyt also taught in Fresno, San Jose and Santa Clara prior to coming to Pleasanton.

Hoyt presently teaches first grade but has also spent much of her career in kindergarten and second grade.

"She's done a tremendous amount helping with student literacy," said Fairlands Principal Bill Faraghan. "That's her passion."

That passion led her to write "Crazy Letter Friends," a teacher's guide, published in 1973, just before Hoyt joined the Pleasanton school district. The book incorporates dramatics into instruction of the letters of the alphabet and their sounds through little plays about each one, which the children enact. This and other contributions in education have earned her awards and recognition, including being a finalist for the national PTA award.

"People will come up to me and ask if I still use that book," Hoyt said, adding that they remember playing Annie Astronaut, Huffing Harry or Munch Monster from Mars. The book was used by a number of Pleasanton kindergarten teachers until the district standardized its curricular materials several years ago.

Hoyt wrote the book while working with students who seemed to have difficulty learning their letters, she explained. "I thought the letters are so abstract and don't have any character or personality," she said. So she gave them just that in Crazy Letter Friends, and noted that the students often ad lib, adding their own personality as well.

"It's kind of a thumbnail sketch of her whole teaching philosophy," said Janna Dean, a teaching colleague and a former student teacher under her guidance. "The way she delivers instruction is through creativity, by making things memorable for children."

Dean added that Hoyt addresses all different learning styles, which was the subject of a later book that she co-authored with high school teachers called "The Adventure of Super Student: Study Skills through Learning Styles."

"She makes it possible for every child to learn, no matter what their learning disability," Dean said. "She's so intuitive. That's why I wanted to student teach with her."

Hoyt's teaching skills, sense of fun and ability to communicate well with parents guaranteed a large number of parent volunteers in her classroom, said Dean, participation critical to the success of her program.

One of Hoyt's central concerns has been helping those with learning disabilities, an interest that began when she discovered that her elder son, Matt, had one. This eventually led her to tutor learning disabled children for eight years.

"It was so rewarding and challenging, and indirectly it would spur me to do creative things," Hoyt said.

Hoyt's level of dedication to her students is rare, said Dean. On a volunteer basis, Hoyt ran reading incentive programs every summer for years with parties at her home as rewards.

Many teachers appreciated Hoyt's mentoring skills as well, said Dean. Similarly, for Hoyt, the opportunity to team with three other colleagues at Walnut Grove for six years was the high point in her career.

"It was really neat because we all had different strengths," said Hoyt. "You worked real hard, but the payoff was so great. That's when we made all the crazy letter friend costumes."

Hoyt's retirement plans include moving to Redondo Beach with her husband, Brian, to be near their son Matt and his family. However, Hoyt said she won't cut school ties completely, but will return to volunteer occasionally. In the future, she also hopes to live part-time at Tahoe, where her younger son, Waide, lives.

Hoyt said she's looking forward to spending time with her 20-month-old granddaughter, who has Down syndrome. Her birth, Hoyt noted, followed shortly after a student that she had tutored for eight years, Katie Milne, died at 21. Although developmentally delayed and with some signs of Down syndrome, Katie was preparing to continue her education.

Hoyt plans to dedicate her next book to Katie, now that she will have more time to devote to writing. And although saddened by this loss, Hoyt finds encouragement in her former student's progress.

"I would have gone to college with her," said Hoyt. "She could read and write and do math. It just shows what you can do if you get to children early."
Other educators retiring from the Pleasanton Unified School District this year are: Amador Valley High School Nancy Aguiar - French; also taught Spanish, ESL, English, History and Social Studies; hired 1966 Larry Brabbin - Tech Preparation; also taught Industrial Arts, business, physical education and detention; hired 1973 Judy Charnow - foreign language; hired 1978
Foothill High School Carmen Alvarez - Spanish; hired 1989 Lynda Magorno - English; hired 1969; also taught at Dublin High School (before unification of school district) Dona Robb - Spanish and yearbook; hired 1983
Village High School Tom Sheridan - civics, economics and physical education; previously assistant principal and dean at Foothill HS and physical education teacher at Harvest Park MS; hired 1984 Suzan Shoemaker - social studies; also taught physical education at Dublin HS and geography at Valley HS; hired 1969
Hart Middle School Dan Tilton - history; also taught history at Harvest Park MS; and history and 7th-grade block at Wells MS; hired 1973
Harvest Park Middle School Joe Gleichauf - humanities; also taught history, English at Harvest Park MS; history and physical education at Wells; social studies at Frederiksen; and grades 4 and 6 at Lydiksen; hired 1971 Gordon Hightower - health; also taught social studies, math, physical education; taught a resource class at Camp Parks; and grade 4 at Alisal ES; hired 1968
Donlon Elementary School Pam Butler - taught grades 3, 4 and 5; also taught grade 7/8 math and art at Besco Elementary (now Donlon); hired 1969
Fairlands Elementary School Ruth Hoyt - grade 1; also taught kindergarten and grade 2; K-2 at Walnut Grove; hired 1973
Lydiksen Elementary School Carol Pendery - kindergarten; also taught K-4 and 6 at Alisal, Fairlands ES, Valley View, Walnut Grove and Harvest Park; hired 1968
Valley View Elementary School Donald Smith - 5th grade; also taught 2, 5-7 at Valley View, Fairlands, Harvest Park and Pleasanton Elementary; hired 1969
Vintage Hills Elementary School Lorna Kruse - 4th grade; also taught 5-6; 6 at Valley View; 6-7 at Harvest Park; hired 1969
Walnut Grove Elementary School Marilyn Auser - kindergarten; also taught 2-3 and was reading specialist; hired 1967 Barbara Holman - kindergarten; also taught 1-2; hired 1970
District Psychologist Kathleen Lortz - hired 1981 Adult Education Principal Paul Goldman - hired 1986
Other employees retiring are: Nance Carpenter - library assistant, hired 1987 Adorado Gorospe - skilled maintenance worker; hired 1980 Margaret Ann Hill - school clerk, hired 1981 Carol Locke - health services liaison; hired 1979 Lois MacKenzie - director of maintenance, operations and transportation; hired 1972 Carolyn Minakata - library media technician; hired 1979 Norma Smith - library media technician; hired 1982 Priscilla Snyder - special education aide; hired 1975

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