Forty years in the first grade | June 29, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 29, 2012

Forty years in the first grade

Teacher retires after instructing generations of youngsters

by Glenn Wohltmann

Not many teachers get their room number retired, but not every teacher is Anita Sanchez, who was teaching at Fairlands Elementary before there was even a Fairlands, back when the school was in temporary quarters.

"We were housed at the Catholic Church," Sanchez said. "I guess I was one of the originals."

That was right after Sanchez got her teaching credential, and she worked the entire rest of her career in the same room, room 106, teaching literally generations of kids.

She's a Pleasanton girl born and bred, and her family has some strong ties to city history as well. Her parents, Mary and Tony Sanchez, were lifelong Pleasanton residents, her mom a stay-at-home mother -- as was nearly every woman in those days -- and her father worked for a mill operator.

Her grandfather on her mother's side was Moses Campagna, who worked as a foreman on Phoebe Hearst's ranch, which is now Castlewood Country Club. Her father is a descendant of a sibling of the Bernal family, prominent 19th-century landowners in and around what is now Pleasanton.

Sanchez has become a bit of local history, too: She was an Amador High cheerleader and homecoming queen in 1965, although Sanchez is hesitant to mention the year. Her brother Jerry is a dentist here, as well.

But beyond all that, Anita Sanchez is a teacher. She spent her entire 40-year career teaching first-graders. Some of her students are now parents with their own sons and daughters that have been through Sanchez's first-grade class.

"Everything was a celebration," said Sierra Stewart, a former student whose daughter was in Sanchez's final class at Fairlands. "It was exciting to come to school."

Back then Snoopy was the class mascot. That changed to Garfield in later years, but the idea was the same, picking a mascot with a special outfit to celebrate a season or holiday.

Sanchez was hard pressed to pick a single event in her career as her favorite, but pointed out an annual occurrence instead.

"I like being in school, when I open the door and see all those faces, and wondering, 'What's my class going to be like?'"

At a party to honor her years in school, Sanchez was challenged to pick out the adults she'd taught and name them, but she passed.

"She knew all the kids that came to visit her," Stewart said.

In addition to being a teacher to hundreds of children, Sanchez was a role model to a generation, according to Fairlands Principal Kim Michel.

"There are teachers all over our district who had Ms. Sanchez as a teacher. What better compliment than to say, 'I want to be like you,'" Michel said. "Ms. Sanchez brings warmth and compassion and ignites a love of learning that lasts a lifetime."

In addition to the parties and recognitions, Fairlands is doing something permanent to mark Sanchez's retirement: It's retiring her room number and making that room into a computer lab.

Sanchez didn't want to make any firm commitments, but said she'd start by sleeping a little later, and looked forward to traveling as well.

While Sanchez leaves a legacy, she's not alone. Social studies teacher Ann Crawford -- who worked for 34 years at Village -- retired with her husband Randy Crawford, an independent study teacher, and they were joined by math teacher Shelley Cox.

Other teachers retiring this year are:

* Karyn Barwick, kindergarten teacher at Alisal Elementary;

* Beverly Gill, resource specialist at Pleasanton Middle School;

* Dolores Griffith, third-grade teacher at Fairlainds Elementary;

* Mark Hailey, math teacher at Foothill High;

* Pat Hallahan, PE teacher at Hart Middle School;

* Teresa Hardy, a third-grade teacher at Alisal;

* Serena Heller, language arts and history teacher at Pleasanton Middle;

* Elaine Hilbelink, reading specialist at Fairlands;

* Maria Houck, a second-grade teacher at Valley View Elementary;

* Margo Johnson, English teacher at Amador;

* Jill Kirkwood, third-grade teacher at Walnut Grove Elementary;

* Susan Kleespies, a chemistry and physics teacher at Foothill;

* Carlye Mecozzi, fifth-grade teacher at Fairlands;

* Phyllis Mendoza, third-grade teacher at Valley View;

* Maria Primeau, a Spanish teacher at Foothill;

* Barbara Reber, a math teacher at Foothill; and

* Cindy York, third-grade teacher at Vintage Hills Elementary.


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