Education Matters: Retired teachers making positive impact in Central Valley communities –

by: Juanita Stevenson

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MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – There are approximately 6,000 retired teachers in Fresno County, and although they are no longer in the classroom, that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped giving.

Monday marks the beginning of Retired Teachers Week.  Statewide, educators are being celebrated for their volunteerism.

In the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Valley Children’s Hospital, you find the most fragile of babies, and it’s where you will find Donna Garcia

Garcia is a retired teacher and has been volunteering at Valley Children’s for the past 13 years.

“My teaching skills helped me with dealing with kids down in the playroom just being a mom myself I knew what babies needed as far as comfort,” explained Garcia.

For this 72-year-old, retirement is not just about staying busy, it is helping others.

“I love the looks on the parents’ faces when they know their kids are being taken care of, to know that I’m relieving a nurse from having to hold a baby to quiet them down to comfort so you know it was such a rewarding feeling,” Garcia said.

In almost every community you will find teachers who have retired from the classroom, still giving back.

Jacqueline Harper taught in Fresno schools for 30 years. She now spends much of her time at the First United Methodist Church of Selma. On Wednesday evenings, she dishes up dinner at the Christian Café to whoever shows up.

“I just like serving people in general, if you can do something for somebody else then you’ve accomplished your mission. It’s not all about me, it’s about those around me that need something,” Harper said.

Jacqueline and Donna both belong to the Fresno chapter of the California Retired Teachers Association, whose main goal is to protect teachers’ pensions and retirement benefits, but at its core are members who never stopped giving.

“Teachers are always givers and it’s just an extension of their personality to give back,” said Barbara Mendes with the California Retired Teachers Association.

They do spend time socializing with each other. The group’s building is a gathering spot for activities, a place to meet new friends.

They have their own choir, a singing group led by retired teacher Sandra Bright.

“The best thing about it is, I’m still a teacher,” said retired teacher Sandra Bright.

They are actively seeking new members, retired teachers who still have more to give.