Retiring educators rack up 650 years


Staff Writer

Add the years of service this year's crop of retiring Imperial Valley teachers and education administrators have racked up and that tally must be giving the bean counters at Imperial County Office of Education quite a "retirement paycheck" headache.

John Anderson, county superintendent of schools, gasped in surprise when told the years totaled over 650.

"It's incredible. I knew the number of years was high but I had no idea it was that high," Anderson said last week.

"There's a lot of wisdom in all those years of service to the children and families of Imperial Valley," Anderson added.


He pointed out these "dedicated" teachers not only made a difference academically but some were physical education teachers who made a difference in the lives of their students through their dedication to sports.

"And I'm not only thinking of good work in sports and academics," Anderson said. "Frequently I've found that students remember not only their classroom teachers but those teachers who helped them with extracurricular activities — the teacher who reached out and made a difference in a kid's life."

Anderson must have had teachers like Parmatma Dhillon in mind when he made that comment. Dhillon made a difference in kids' lives in the Calexico school district for a total of 30 years. Most of his 30 years were at De Anza Junior High School, where he taught science and math.

When asked to describe that special moment when he made a real connection with a student, Dhillon didn't hesitate before saying, "It was always the smile on a kid's face when I gave him or her a copy of their school's yearbook."

Dhillon modestly describes how each year he would give yearbooks to those students lacking the financial means to buy their own copy.

Year after year Dhillon would give away upward of 25 yearbooks. Ask him where the money came from to purchase the books and he explains he would go around campus picking up soda cans off the ground and from trash cans to recycle for cash.

For second-grade teacher Doris Kennedy, the 33 years she spent at Finley Elementary School in Holtville have been a "joy."

"I just loved to see their expressions when that light bulb went on and you knew they'd got ‘it.' And seeing them create things — to see that incredible spark of creativity was a very special part of it for me."

Kennedy concedes to savoring a special joy when her small charges would slip up and call her "mom." "That was always a special moment for me," the veteran educator said with a catch in her voice.

In 1966 Larry Zediker kicked off his 36-year teaching career by accepting a position to teach vocational agriculture at Imperial High School.

Zediker went on to teach a potpouri of subjects in schools Valleywide, including science, math, auto shop and woodshop as well as a migrant compensatory education unit.

"The last three years were the best," Zediker said emphatically.

Involved with the independent studies course at Desert Oasis High School, Zediker said the chance to work closely with individual students made for rewarding teaching.

"Working one-on-one you get to know the student better and help direct their studies," he said.

Thirty-seven years ago a young teacher from Colorado came to the Imperial Valley to teach special education at Wilson Junior High School in El Centro.

On June 28 that teacher, Everett Taylor, now a seasoned administrator with the El Centro Elementary School District, retires as associate superintendent of administrative personnel services for the district.

Taylor's answer came quickly when asked why he committed himself to a life in education.

"From the time I was a lifeguard during my high school and college days, I knew I enjoyed working with young people — it's really as simple as that."

The man who has worked as a teacher, a counselor, a principal and finally as an administrator shares his last name with another long-serving Valley educator retiring this year — his wife, Margaret.

Margaret Taylor is retiring after 34 years teaching in the same district as her husband. Twenty of those years were at one school, De Anza Elementary in El Centro.

Everett Taylor chuckles when talking about his wife's passion for teaching.

"Family members have related to me how Margaret role-played being a teacher from a very early age," he said.

After 39 years teaching science subjects at Central Union High School, teacher Stan Gienger wasted no time getting started on his retirement plans.

"He's gone to Mexico to fish," was wife Joy's explanation when contacted by telephone late last week. "He didn't lose any time, did he?" she asked rhetorically while laughingly explaining how her husband had "turned in his keys at school on June 13 and left on the fishing trip on June 17," with a couple of other teacher buddies who share his love for fishing.

Joy Gienger said her husband, who also coached wrestling, cross country and track at Central, became a teacher simply because, "He really loved to work with kids."

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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