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Retiring teachers reflect on decades of change in their profession

Original post made on May 14, 2021

Thirty Palo Alto Unified teachers -- all of whom have taught at the district between 20 to 50 years -- are closing a chapter in their lives after what some have deemed the most challenging year ever.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 14, 2021, 6:59 AM

Comments (10)

Posted by Former Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 14, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Former Student is a registered user.

Mr. Lim was my (incredibly patient) pre calc teacher my senior year at Paly (MANY years ago). He played a pivotal role in one of the educational experiences I had, one of those moments that has stayed with me forever. At the end of the year we had a final, and I had to schedule mine separately since I'd missed it due to surgery. I was not doing great in his class, and I would have to pretty much ace the final to budge my grade. With the grade I already had, failing the final, or even taking a zero, would leave me with a C-. He left the choice up to me: take the 0 and end with a C- OR come in during my first week of no classes to take a test in a class I had been very distracted in (caught up in my own social drama). It was my choice to make, he said, but it was about who I was and who I wanted to be. I share this story with my students almost every year. I always ask them what they would have done and what they think I did. The answer is: I took the test. I did not ace it. I think I still scraped a C in the class. That moment, however, has stood out to me. I remember being quite aware that the choice was not about a test, but rather about who I wanted to be and what I valued, and I wasn't just being given the opportunity to "rise to the occasion," I was also being given the opportunity to choose the easier route. It was my choice to make and that felt profound. Okay, so this was just a final and it may seem pretty small in the grand scheme of things, but as an 18 year old it was pivotal and has stuck with me through the (many) years. Mr. Lim pointed out, at a time when I was ready to hear it, the connection between my daily actions and living my values and the kind of person I strove to be. I hope that everyone is able to have a teacher that offers them that lesson.

Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2021 at 10:12 pm

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Congratulations to all of the teachers who are retiring. This is not an easy District to teach in. Enjoy your next stages in life.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2021 at 2:44 am

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I saw Mr. Shelby's name on the list of retiring teachers several months ago and was somewhat heartbroken. I took one of his theater classes and was in several plays when I was at Gunn, and his directing is so good that his shows usually feel like professional productions. He's done so much for theater in Palo Alto for so long, he deserves a big send-off with a huge cast in a sold-out auditorium--he's also kept in touch with alumni, and years ago instituted an annual Theatre Alumni Reunion potluck during winter break (which was of course cancelled this year due to COVID).

I'm glad to hear that Kristin Lo will succeed him. I was in the gloriously silly ORB O' THE GREAT with her at the Children's Theatre, and the show was so much fun that for years I could only imagine her as her character in the play.

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2021 at 9:23 am

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[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2021 at 11:04 pm

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“There is nothing inherently tough about this district/relatively easy district to teach in compared to districts with far less financial support”

I can understand your premise here that working in this district is “easier” than working in a low socioeconomic school district and that may be true, but I argue it flips to the other extreme here. There you have a district like you stated with more crime and less resources etc., here in this district you have to deal with entitlement, unrealistic expectations, law suits, and some generally nasty attitudes. I don’t know how many negative posts I have seen in this forum regarding the PAUSD district and the PAUSD staff. A lot of commenters here think they are a “customer” because they pay taxes. The teachers got a meager raise last week, and immediately a poster wanted “means testing” done for all teachers to somehow verify that they are up to “means testing” expectations and will live up to that meager raise that likely barely covers the cost of living. (How about some “parenting” means testing?)

Meanwhile PAUSD is generally ranked as one of the highest school districts in California. I argue if there is a problem it’s likely not the teachers, and it’s just that the kids likely aren’t as smart, special, or gifted as the parents here would like to believe their children are. Not every child is cut out to go to Stanford even if you grow up in Palo Alto. PAUSD delivers and I didn’t even mention the outcry about the teachers being able to stay safe and work from home this year during a dangerous pandemic. It was completely embarrassing.

So congratulations to these retirees! I don’t know how you made it through. I certainly could not. I can barely deal with these people in the comment section here at the Weekly typing from home in my beloved Crescent Park. Good luck in retirement. You made it. These retirees deserve a medal!

Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2021 at 1:07 am

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[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2021 at 10:01 am

A Parent is a registered user.

In contrast to a negative statmt made above, teaching generally is a much tougher profession than most people who have never done it understand.

There is nothing inherently tough about this district. From my observation having lived in other parts of the country with a large, diverse intl family, this is a relatively easy district to teach in compared to districts with far less financial support, less volunteerism in the classroom, less support for teachers, less favorable benefits, more crime, greater social emotional challenges among youth, more poverty/food insecurity, more decrepit facilities, fewer classroom resources, more distrust of public education, more violence including gun violence, fewer arts programs....this district is a cake walk.

There is no such thing as perfect; having to strive to continually solve problems is normal. Our district seems to suffer from a perennial administrative culture averse to being collaborative and problem solving, which has always created unnecessary conflict & impeded meeting needs of children who aren’t, well, perfect.

I say this as a parent whose experience with the district was fantastic in elementary & so bad in middle we will bear the scars probably the rest of our lives. Unable to endure the gaslighting or retaliation, we had to homeschool for high school. Our 2e child’s dyslexia, dysgraphia and other related challenges were not caught until after graduating& 11th, respectively. Homeschooling with a public program elsewhere helped restore our child’s faith in educators (who were wonderful to work with& said same of us) but if we had stayed here, I can’t see how we could ever have gotten the benefits of a healthy relationship or program as in this article.

Parents&teachers who have a fixed mindset about this being a tough district worsen the barriers to collaboration&solving problems for kids whose lives or challenges don’t fit the mold.This district is tough for THEM (in violation ofWright’s law)

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2021 at 10:04 am

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[Post removed; successive comments are not permitted.]

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2021 at 1:11 pm

A Parent is a registered user.

I apologize, I am still trying to get used to your system. There was no intent to post under multiple names, it was an accident. I work hard on those posts and in the education arena, they can make posters feel very vulnerable, and it's also important not to bring in implications from other kinds of discussions because many posters can be ad hominem. My original posts were not successive.

Please restore my original posts - you can my permission to make the name "A Parent" for consistency. They were not made successively.

Posted by mcm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2021 at 2:06 pm

mcm is a registered user.

Arnie Lim taught my son pre-Calculus many years ago, and he was not only a wonderful math teacher, but also a wonderful teacher of life. He took a personal interest in his students and worked hard to get to know each of them. He will be greatly missed at Paly, and I wish him all the best in this next phase of his life. I know whatever he does, he will make a positive impact!

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