When Karlyn Taylor finished kindergarten in 1955, she couldn't know that she'd be back in kindergarten in that same room 30 years later. This time, she'd be the teacher.
Now that Taylor is retiring from her Otis Elementary classroom, the memories of her kindness will continue to influence her students.
A life-long Alamedan, Taylor grew up on Broadway, went through Otis, met her husband at Alameda High and got her degree from Cal State-Hayward. It was an easy decision to settle down in Alameda since both she and her husband had family and roots here.
She received her teaching credential in 1973 and taught one year at Miller Elementary on the Navy base. She remembers having a special pass for her car, driving through the check-point and being saluted every day.
After her first year teaching, she took 10 years off to have her two sons before returning to teaching, this time at Otis Elementary.
"I went to Otis to be interviewed for a kindergarten position. I thought it'd probably be a practice interview. But they hired me," said Taylor. "My first assignment had me sharing a room with my own first-grade teacher, who was about to retire."
Taylor has taught continually at Otis for 24 years, spending the last 13 in room 1, her own kindergarten classroom.
Staying so connected to Alameda has afforded Taylor the opportunities to teach the children of former students and all the siblings in some families. She also has become friends with many parents of her students.
Kelly Floyd, a mom whose third child is finishing kindergarten this year, is happy that each of her kids was able to begin school in Taylor's classroom.
"She's nurturing and motherly, and she makes it fun. She takes an individual interest in all the kids. My oldest might not have been ready (for school), and she took him under her wing and helped him become ready to move on to the first grade. We became friends by working together to help my son," Floyd said. "All my kids say she is their favorite teacher, including my oldest who will be in fifth grade next year." .
Taylor's nurturing side also can be seen in her yearly offering for the Otis Elementary auction, which raises money for the school's arts programs. She donates her time to come to the winner's home with chocolate chip cookies and bedtime stories. Floyd says this is always a popular item in the auction.
Katie Lyons, current principal at Lum Elementary, also enjoyed working with Taylor during the time Lyons was principal at Otis.
"She has an incredible capacity to pull children in to play to their full potential. She makes kids feel included, valued and competent to fully participate in the activities of the classroom," said Lyons. "She's a very honest person, and she balances this with genuine caring about kids and families.
"She works to develop support and achievement for each kid in her class. She is the kind of teacher children and families remember long after they leave kindergarten," Lyons said.
"She also watches out for the welfare and comfort of other new teachers and professionals who come into the school," Lyons added. "She tries to draw them into the group."
Taylor also appreciates the collaborative spirit and support she has enjoyed with fellow teachers and parents.
"At Otis, (the kindergarten teachers) work so well as a team. We all get along, have the same philosophy, and support each other," Taylor said.
"The parent population is tremendously supportive, supporting you in doing your job. There is a nice, diverse mix of children.
"It's like being at home for me. The parents and children have become my friends. I hope it continues after I retire," she said. "I'll miss the kids' sense of humor, the hugs. I can draw a picture on the board and they think I'm wonderful."
After the annual end-of-school kindergarten picnic Saturday, Taylor plans to settle into a life of doing "grandma things." She has one 9-month-old grandson and another on the way.
Lyons noted that there are several other teachers, like Taylor, who are retiring this year after giving diligent service to the children and families of Alameda.
"There are a lot of teachers and administrators retiring this year that have supported the Alameda schools for 30-plus years now," Lyons said. "It's important for the community to honor that generation of educators. They built a strong, vibrant community of education in Alameda, and they will all be missed."