School’s out: Honoring local retirees and educators
by Brooke Borba | Patterson Irrigator
Jun 19, 2014 | 2056 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students are not the only ones enjoying their extended vacation. For many retirees of the Patterson Joint Unified School District and Sacred Heart Catholic School, the beginning of summer triggered a lifelong dream—to escape the daily tidings of the workforce.

The 11 retirees of Patterson’s area schools include the following:

Cyndy Gomes

Cyndy Gomes, an administrative assistant at Sacred Heart School, has officially retired following the end of the 2014 school year.

Gomes began her educational pursuits in Arroyo Grande, Calif. before finally working for Sacred Heart in 1987. She worked for free for two years while the “school got on it’s feet,” before joining as a full-time staff member. Since her initial hiring in 1987, Gomes has been working at the school for 27 years. Her title had changed considerably throughout the process, and she enjoyed a variety of hats including working as a secretary, bookkeeper and nurse.

Many changes as to the school’s function also took place during her time there. She remembered when the school only housed 24 students in Kindergarten through third-grade; now the school has now grown to encompass preschool to eighth-grade students, and hosts approximately 250 pupils.

“When we opened the school, we had three classrooms, a teeter totter, one slide and swing set with four swings and no grass,” Gomes said.

The school now has a preschool building, library, computer lab, playground equipment, baseball fields and additional classrooms.

Gomes said there were many wonderful things about Sacred Heart, but the thing that struck her most were the relationships that she made with the students, parents and teachers over the years.

Although Gomes will remain involved with the school because her grandchildren attend, she said she will miss the everyday contact with the staff who were like family to her.

Now that she is retired, Gomes will continue to work as a realtor for Realty World Scheuber-Arendsee. She will also attend a Hawaiian vacation with her children and grandchildren this summer, and plans to travel with her husband Dan often. Gomes said she currently has a bucket list that she is working on, which includes spending more time with her children and four grandsons.

Christine “Christy” Halseth

Christine “Christy” Halseth, a first-grade teacher at Northmead Elementary School, first began her career after graduating from California State University, Fullerton in 1974 and obtaining her teaching credential in 1984.

She was hired in Patterson in 1986 as a fourth-grade teacher at Las Palmas Elementary, and consequently had the same room she occupied as a fifth-grade student. Halseth said nothing about the classroom had changed in the 25 intervening years, which made her feel right at home.

Later on in her career, she moved to Northmead where she began teaching second and first-grade students for 28 years. Throughout her time there, Halseth said there have been several changes made to the curriculum.

“It’s always a challenge to change the way you teach but it also keeps it interesting,” she said. “That is probably what I like most about teaching; it’s never boring.”

Halseth said being a teacher was entertaining. She often found amusement in each child’s differing perspective, and found them all to be quite funny. Even though Halseth said she will enjoy her retirement, she will miss the children, as well as the administrators and her fellow colleagues.

“Whether things were going great, or not so great, being able to share the teaching experience with (the staff) has been absolutely vital,” said Halseth. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Now that she is retired, Halseth plans to wake up to the sunrise instead of an alarm clock, relax with a cup of coffee, work in her yard, read a book, and enjoy other simple luxuries.

Annette Dedini

Former kindergarten teacher Annette Dedini of Northmead Elementary School finished her last year as an educator just mere weeks ago. Dedini, now retired, began her own elementary and high school career in Gustine before succeeding to Modesto Community College. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, before finally securing her teaching credential from UOP.

Dedini began working for Northmead Elementary School in 1990, and has spent the last 24 years helping Patterson students reach their potential. She has worked in a variety of teaching levels including kindergarten, first, second and third-grade.

Many changes occurred since her time at Northmead, said Dedini. The language arts program went from a whole language approach to a phonics based program. In kindergarten, the students also went from having half days to three-quarter days. The school also lost a few aides and teachers to assist in the classrooms during the half day program. The kindergartens now have the same program as what the first-graders had when Dedini first began her career at Northmead.

Dedini said she enjoyed being around her friends during the afternoon’s proceedings and loved the camaraderie of the staff.

“The principals have always maintained a family atmosphere,” she added.

Dedini also expressed love for the children of Patterson, claiming that she will miss them and her friends the most now that she is retired.

With her added free time, Dedini hopes to travel with her husband and spend more time with her grandchildren. She still remains thankful for the opportunity she had to teach many local students.

Diane Mendes

Diane Mendes celebrated her last day as a teacher’s aide at Sacred Heart Catholic School in late May. Mendes began her own educational journey after graduating high school in the city of Canby, Minn. She eventually went on to pursue an education in secretarial schooling by attending the University of Minnesota and the Detroit Lakes’ campus.

Mendes said she began working at Sacred Heart Catholic School as a volunteer from 1987 to 1991. Her duties included acting as the school’s librarian, working lunch duty, and helping with daily classroom activities. She was hired in late 1991, and has been working for the school the last 23 years.

Mendes said there were a variety of changes that took place over the course of the years. This includes interacting with different staff members, teachers and integrating new technological advances such as smart boards into the classroom.

Mendes said what she liked most about working at Sacred Heart Catholic School was interacting with the children and getting to know the parents.

“I will miss the children most of all,” she said. “They made me very happy each day.”

Now that she is retired, Mendes plans to spend her time gardening, scrap booking, taking day trips, having lunch with friends and relaxing so that she may enjoy life.

Patricia “Diane” Peterson

Patricia “Diane” Peterson, a 12th-grade English teacher and Kids Helping Kids advisor for Patterson High School, has ended her 27 year career through the Patterson Joint Unified School District as of late May. The former teacher began her studies at Hilmar High School before journeying to California State University, Stanislaus.

In 1987, Peterson began working for the school, where she taught students in and out of the classroom. Peterson became both the varsity boys and girls golf coach, and has personally witnessed how large the school has grown over the years.

Peterson said when she first started working at Patterson High she taught the sophomore class and knew every student by name. She believes only 400 students occupied the campus at that time, and now says there are well over four times that amount.

“We also didn’t have air conditioning, so there’s some good that comes out of change,” she added.

Although it may come as a surprise to many of her former students, said Peterson, she really loved working with the kids. She said she will miss them the most, and remains to be amazed by their resiliency and growth. She will also miss many of the people she’s worked with and came to know over the years.

Peterson plans to spend her retirement with her four grandchildren, and is anticipating the birth of one more due in November. She is also excited about her daughter’s upcoming wedding in February, and cannot wait to go to Tahoe during the midweek when it’s not crowded.

“But Patterson beware,” she added. “I will be around getting volunteers and donations for Kids Helping Kids which I plan to continue helping support and prosper.”

Debra Reichmuth

Debra Reichmuth, the secretary to Assistant Principal of Discipline at Patterson High School, retired from her post in late May following nearly 25 years of service at Patterson High School.

Consequently, Reichmuth herself has been attending PHS since was a teenager and decided to join the staff when she applied for the school clerk’s position in 1989.

Reichmuth notes that the biggest change to take place at PHS since her time there had to do with the rise in technology. She also credits that the size of the school has grown, as well as the amount of students.

Working with the kids and families was Reichmuth’s favorite part of her duties at PHS, but what she will miss most will have to be the day to day activities, as well as her co-workers.

Now that she is retired, Reichmuth plans to spend much more quality time with her family.

Kathy Vetro-Martinez

Former guidance counselor Kathy Vetro-Martinez has retired from her position following 16 years of service at Patterson High School.

Vetro-Martinez began her academic success shortly after graduating from Patterson High. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology from CSU, Fresno and a Bachelor of Science degree from CSU, Stanislaus (plus a single subject credential to teach history) before attaining a Pupil Personnel credential and masters in Educational Counseling from the University of San Francisco.

She has been in education for a total of 32 years—16 of which were devoted to Gustine’s area schools.

Vetro-Martinez started out as a seventh-grade teacher before moving to Pioneer High School, where she taught and coordinated the alternative education programs in Gustine. She spent her last three years in Gustine as a guidance counselor at Gustine High School before switching to Patterson High.

Vetro-Martinez also became Patterson’s adult education counselor for the last 10 years of her career.

She said one of the biggest changes that took place over the course of her time at PHS had to be the influx of students. She admits that the school and town has experienced some growing pains, and notes that testing demands have increased as well.

In spite of these faults, Vetro-Martinez was still excited to join the Tigers’ staff and states that helping the local youth has always been great fun.

“I will miss their energy and enthusiasm for life,” she said about her duties. “I think it helps keep a person’s mind young and refreshed.”

Of course, she will also miss her friends and fellow staff members as well. She recalls her relationship with them as though they were extended family members.

Although Vetro-Martinez hasn’t given much thought about what she’d like to do with her newfound time, she said she plans to take a few trips in the near future. Raymond Miller

Speech Pathologist Raymond Miller recently retired from the Patterson Joint Unified School District after spending 17 years on staff.

Miller began his secondary education at Modesto Junior College before switching over to CSU, Stanislaus in his youth. He began working for the District in 1997, and notes that many changes have taken place since his initial start.

Miller stated there has been a dramatic increase of paperwork over the last few years, as well as new computerized Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and curriculums. One of the major changes Miller has noticed has been a de-emphasis on phonics, although he does believe the new Common Core standards will benefit the school’s current learning system.

One thing Miller said he will miss most about working within the PJUSD is working with the students, his fellow cohorts and professionals.

“I will miss all of them—even those who will not particularly miss me,” Miller added.

He said he also appreciates the parents who understand the district’s situation and are willing to lend a helping hand.

Miller’s retirement will compose of writing essays, stories and novels, playing golf, taking trips, and resting.

Bette Rubin-Smith

Bette Rubin-Smith, secretary alternative program specialist, has also retired this year after dedicating 23 years and 10 months of service to the Patterson Joint Unified School District.

Rubin-Smith began her secondary education at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Modesto Junior College shortly after attending North Platte High School in Nebr.

After obtaining her education, Rubin-Smith began working for the PJUSD in November of 1990. She held many titles throughout her time there, she said.

She ran the House Suspension room 122 for Patterson High and Patterson Junior High for seven years while simultaneously working as a secretary at Del Puerto High School.

She has worked with five different principals, four different superintendents and a variety of teachers and students. She has seen the Del Puerto campus gone from two classrooms to seven, and notes that students now receive breakfast and lunch instead of just a sandwich during their designated lunch hour.

“I have been here since (DP) has become a separate school (from Patterson High),” she said. “I’ve been a part of its growth and have seen lots and lots of students succeed. There are really too many things that I’ll miss.”

Rubin-Smith said she enjoyed working at Del Puerto High School because the school was small enough to know each student by name. She said the students were like family, and she thought of her coworkers as close friends.

But now that Rubin-Smith is retired, she knows she will enjoy herself immensely. The first thing she said she’d do is turn off her alarm and enjoy spending time with her husband Harold, who is also retiring. She also wants to become a bigger part of the community, and is planning to join the Patterson Rotary. A grandchild is also on the way, which Rubin-Smith is very excited for.

Margaret Pierce

Margaret Pierce, a former nurse for the Patterson Joint Unified School District, is happy to report that she is now retired after being a part of the district for 13 years.

Pierce has been associated with Patterson throughout her life, and went to many of the area schools that she served. After attending Modesto Junior College, Pierce worked for the Del Puerto Hospital until it closed, then redirected her services to Covenant Village. Pierce spent a lot of her time working with special education kids, performing treatments and procedures for their health.

After gaining this experience, Pierce was hired by the district in September of 2011. She began working with a multitude of students at different school sites, which she felt to be very rewarding. What she will miss most about her time at PJUSD is being with fellow staff members and the many students she’s served.

Pierce doesn’t plan on letting her talents go to waste. During her retirement, she plans to volunteer her time at hospitals to help those in need.

She said she will also have more time to figure out how her Kindle Fire works.

Sandra Ferrero-Gustafson

Former grade school teacher Sandra Ferrero-Gustafson of Northmead Elementary has recently retired after dedicating 27 years to the Patterson Joint Unified School District.

Ferrero-Gustafson, known as Mrs. G to her students, began her secondary education at CSU, San Jose and CSU, Fresno before coming to work at Patterson Unified in 1987.

Mrs. G started out as a sixth-grade teacher at Grayson Elementary before she began teaching combination classes at the small school. She taught fifth and sixth-grade student combinations as well as fourth and fifth-grade combinations during her time there. In 1995 she moved to Rising Sun and continued to teach combination classes comprised of third and fourth-graders as well as second and third-graders.

“It sounds hard, but I love teaching combination classes,” she said.

When Ferrero-Gustafson first began working in the District, teachers only used old ditto masters to make copies and relied on nothing but black boards and chalk. She said even movies were shown on old reel-to-reel projections.

During her time at the school, she watched as the black boards transitioned to white boards and movie projectors to overhead projectors.

“That meant that I wasn’t always covered with chalk dust; now my hands were always black from the overhead pens,” she said.

Finally, she witnessed the transition to computers, which makes for a cleaner learning experience. She said she enjoyed backing up lessons with pictures, movies and articles from the web, although her favorite addition was definitely Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers.

Mrs. G said she enjoyed Northmead immensely as well, and loved the staff parties and close relationships that were built between the teachers, their students and the parents.

“I will miss the students of course, but I think I will mostly miss the wonderful people I’ve been working with these past 27 years,” she said.

Now that Mrs. G is retired, she plans to spoil her “grandbabies”, read, travel and start and finish projects “in a timely manner.”

“I don’t plan on being bored until I’m at least 102,” she said.

Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or
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