Retirement Festivities, Part 3

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Illustrated Jack and Jill

Yesterday was a wonderful, long, happy day! At school, we had a wonderful discussion about what cities do to remove their trash. We did art and writing, with more students finishing their cardboard constructions and their stories. While the kids were working on their projects, I continued packing. All our shelves are now empty and dusted, ready for the kindergarten classes to come in.

All packed up!

It was also Crazy Hair Day! Kids came with dyed hair, hair piled up on top of their heads, and even a few sculptures…like on young lady who used a soda bottle! Friday afternoon was Fun Friday, so all three classes (except for a few kids who were in trouble) got to play kickball, have races on the track, or climb on the Panther Palace.

That’s some Crazy Hair!

After school was my third retirement celebration! The lady from Portobello’s brought quiches and salads, Auntie Olga helped set up the beer and wine, and Jamie Gaynor brought four dozen of her wonderful cupcakes!

Dear Pat van Noy and Mr. Burgess
Me, Leslie Carter, and Anne Crawford

Friends that I have known for thirty years, like Rochelle Breschini and Stefanie Burgess came and got to meet new friends like Emma Mandella, Heather Gattis, and Shawn Quiane. Mrs. Breschini was Auntie Katie’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Burgess was her first grade teacher! We go way back.

Mrs. Burgess and Mrs. Breschini

Our friends Mimi and George Niesen came, as well. It was quite an afternoon. When Uncle David and Liza woke up from their naps, they joined the party. Everyone ate and drank as much as they could, but there was still quite a lot left over. We sent some quiches and salads, and even some cupcakes, home with folks. Yummy party leftovers!

Liza, me, and Emma Mandella

By the end of the evening, I was done in. I was so full of friendship and love (and good food and wine) that I dropped right off to sleep.

Love, Grandma Judy




Some Endings

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Today was the last day of my class’s Reader’s Theater Performances. It was also the first day I got to watch one, if only for a few minutes. Usually the groups leave the pod, the building where my class is, and go clear across campus to other classrooms, but today a group did their play, “A Visit from Cesar Chavez” in Emma Mandella’s room, just a few steps from mine. So I snuck over to watch.

“A Visit from Cesar Chavez”

I was pleased to see how attentive the third grade audience was. They leaned in to hear the soft voices of some of my students, but relaxed when Brandon spoke. He has a fine, clear voice and isn’t afraid of being in front of people. I was proud of how well he has grown in order to take part in the play.

The whole Reader’s Theater library is part of the fourth grade “Benchmark” series, an English language development program. I didn’t use much of the series, but the plays and some of the reading books were useful. I hope the fourth grade next year takes advantage of this resource.

The Curriculum that helped

After school it was time for some of the end of year paperwork. Cumulative folders, report cards, writing samples, and special grades for children still learning English all take time to prepare. Since I need to be DONE on the last day, I have started early so there are no surprises.

Once I got home I waited for dear Jane Parrish to bring her enormous contribution to my retirement party…the beer and wine! Thanks Janie! A good time will be had by all, I’m sure.

Important supplies!

Tomorrow is the fifth to the last day of school for me….ever! Still wrapping my brain around that.


Grandma Judy


Wise Friends

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I have gotten to tell you about many of my lovely friends here in Salinas. Today I had dinner at Gino’s Italian Restaurant with one of them, my former colleague and former Principal, Anne Crawford.

Anne Crawford and me

I met Anne about 20 years ago (without all my school yearbooks, I can’t be sure) when she was a new teacher at University Park. She was teaching what was then called Primary Introduction to English, or something like that. It was a class specifically designed to teach newly arrived  students English. She struck me as having great empathy and understanding for her students and a desire to broaden their horizons.

Having always taught at University Park, when it was a mostly middle class  population, I had never thought of using school to provide what I thought of as normal “kid” experiences. But Anne’s students had never been to the ocean, never gone to a play, never talked about the news. Anne was determined to give them those experiences. I watched and learned, and I’m glad I did.

As our school’s population changed to more lower income, I began to see the wisdom in Anne’s approach. Not all of our new students had yards to play in, family vacations to remember, or books in their home. I remember the first time a student told me they hadn’t done their homework because they didn’t have a pencil at home, I thought it was the silliest excuse I had ever heard. But they didn’t. And I had to re-think homework.

A few years after I met her, Anne got her Administrative credential and moved to a different school to be their Principal. A few years after that, she returned to University Park as our Principal. What a homecoming!

Now Anne was leading our merry band of teachers, and school went from being good to being great. If you have never been a teacher, it is hard to explain how a Principal who knows exactly what it is like to be in a classroom all day is a golden gift. They understand the importance of little things, like pencil sharpeners that really work, and how important it is for students to see the Principal RIGHT AWAY when there is a problem.

Anne brought her concern and wisdom to all our students, and was a fine Principal, even in the hard times of tight budgets and increasing micro-managing by the District Office. But after her many years of working in the public schools, Anne hit a wall with parents who wouldn’t parent and kids who had no limits. She retired.

Of course, as we now understand, retiring is just the beginning of a whole new life. Anne had new grandkids to look after, dinners to hostess, and beaches to walk on. And, like today, friends to buy dinner for. AND, she’s coming to my retirement party on Friday!


Grandma Judy


Cowboy Up!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Here in Salinas, the biggest event of the year is the Salinas Rodeo, which happens in July. Salinas was founded as a ranching and farming town and horses, cows and cowboys have always been a big part of it. Today, our school got a visit from Janice Lemons. She brought our Cowboy assembly as part of the national “Cowboys for Kids” program.

Janice Lemons of Cowboys for Kids

First, Janice gave us interesting information about rodeo riding. A cowboy needs to stay on a bucking bull for 8 seconds to qualify for a win, and since every contest is only 8 seconds long, each bucking bronco bucks for about a total of five minutes in a whole year. She also showed us what equipment cowboys use to stay safe and keep their horses, and even the bulls, safe.

Showing how a barrel rider goes

The sport of rodeo is the only sport based on a real life profession. Janice told us about rodeo clowns and how they distract the bulls and horses so cowboys can get out of the arena safely.

Then Janice got to what was, for me, the important part of the assembly. She introduced us to the expression “Cowboy up”, which means to be tough and resolute in your heart and mind, to do what you know is right even when it’s hard. It means standing your ground against drugs, gangs, and bullying.

Cowboy Up!

I enjoyed the assembly very much. I am not a fan of the sport of Rodeo, but I like Janice’s presentation style and her message about inner strength. The kids were very engaged and polite. My students who needed to sit to the side did multiplication tables while they listened.

We went straight from the assembly to recess, and then to our room next door to finish up the movie, “Island of the Blue Dolphins”. This is a movie my co-teacher, Leslie Carter, has been using for years…for so long, in fact, that it is on VHS video tape. Three classes of kids sat, really riveted, watching a small television set and technology that was old when they were born.

Movies on videotape!

This afternoon my students went, in small groups, to other classrooms to perform their Reader’s Theater plays. They are enjoying it very much, and the classes seem to like it, but having groups coming and going makes for a fragmented afternoon. Mostly, the kids colored and I packed books into boxes for the end of the year move to Room 26.

We only have seven more days of school, and then I come back home to Portland!


Grandma Judy





End of the Year Projects

Dressed 3-D character

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

We now have eight days until the end of our school year. For me, it is my last school year, and I want to have some fun. My class, the Dragons, have been writing stories.

A character

They created characters and drew them. Then they made an eight part story map, outlining what their hero would do in the story to achieve his or her goals. Now they are writing, in Google Classroom, the final drafts of their stories.

An Outline for a story about the character

They are also turning their characters into action figures! Using a bunch of thin cardboard given to us by Annette Agee, our wonderful cafeteria lady, we drew, glued, and ‘dressed’ our characters, and have even used more cardboard to make background for these characters to stand in front of.

Naked character
The character becomes 3-D

It was been a long process and has taken a lot of planning, patience, and figuring stuff out, but the final products are looking so good! It is good to have a project where the children are so invested in the final product that they want to stay in and work on it, and moan when the recess bell rings.

I know I will miss many parts of teaching. This is surely one of them.


Grandma Judy

3-D character gets a place to be

The Royal Wedding, Salinas Style

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Ready for the first rising

This morning I woke up early and started more bread. It takes a while to make, and I wanted some soft bread for our celebration of the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry of England to his American bride, Meghan Markle.

Ready for second rising

Once the bread was started, our friend and hair stylist, Shanoa Perez, came by to cut everyone’s hair. She doesn’t have a shop anymore, and has lots of other projects, but she is sweet enough to come by every few months and make the whole family beautiful. She does good work!

Beautiful Olga


David and Liza
My end of the year cut









The bread rose, got punched down and put into buttered pyrex dishes, and rose again. Then in 20 minutes, we had two loaves of lovely soft white bread. Some of this, and some heavier whole grain bread, was sliced,  buttered, cream cheesed, yogurt spread, and finished with slices of cucumber and smoked salmon. Some even got strawberries! These tiny open faced sandwiches were placed on Auntie Olga’s best tiered serving dish and, along with mimosas, became our lunch.IMG_5693.jpg

Uncle David found the replay of the Royal Wedding on, and Auntie Olga and I ate our high tea and enjoyed the church, clothes, songs and sermons of the wedding. Cousin Liza had her lunch and watched too, but didn’t have the patience of young Princess Charlotte, and went off to play with her robot for a while.

I haven’t walked more than thirty feet today, compared to the three miles yesterday, but I am still going to have a lay down. Being royal, even a day late and in jeans, is tiring!



Grandma Judy





Accidental Monterey

Fun with sandpipers and filters

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Today was a Saturday, and I had no obligations! First, Liza and I woke up and played a game that her Baba Alla had brought from Russia. The fun part was, the rules were in Russian, so we couldn’t read them. We got to figure out how to play by looking really closely at the cards. Turns out, it was an “opposites” game. Black,white, long, short, fragile, durable, things like that. It was fun to watch Liza figure it out!

Russian opposites game

Then Liza and her Momma went on an adventure to The Monterey Bay Aquarium and to visit with some friends. I figured that I would go for a walk around Salinas. I bundled up and headed off. As I was walking, I was chatting with Auntie Bridgett on the phone. “Why are you walking around Salinas?” She asked. “Head for the ocean and walk on the beach!” So I did.

John Cerney art in Seaside

The Number 20 bus runs right down West Alisal, and goes to Monterey, but I got off in Seaside. I wanted to walk along and beach and end up in Monterey for lunch. Stopping at Starbucks (which I never do!) to get warmed up, I headed under the freeway and walked on the sand. Heading south, in one of those wonderful accidental miracles, I ran into my old friend Barbara Snell, who was heading north. She is a beach-walker, too, and had a bag of trash she had collected. We caught up and chatted and then went on our ways.

Me and Barb

Once I got to Monterey, there was a lot to see. There was a Jade Festival, where people were selling beautifully polished stones of all sorts…jade, quartz, hematite, and even iron pyrite, which is called “fool’s gold”. There was a jazz combo with a singer, and I listened to them for a while. They were delightfully smooth, even in the blustery grey weather. Of course, the historic architecture is always fun to look at.

Classy architecture at Franklin and Calle Principal

For lunch I decided on The Crown and Anchor, a wonderfully kitchy English- Style Pub on Franklin. They were decorated for the Royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, and I watched some of the wedding re-plays on the news broadcast and I had roasted corn soup and bread.

Inside the Crown and Anchor

While I was eating and realizing how tired I was, I checked my phone and saw that I had walked about 3 miles along the sand. It was time to go home. I walked up Alvarado to the Monterey Transit Plaza and caught the good old Number 20 back home.

Tomorrow, Auntie Olga, Cousin Liza and I  plan to celebrate (belatedly) the Royal Wedding and get haircuts!


Grandma Judy