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Sue Allen, an English teacher at Antioch Middle School, watches as her students work on a project during class in Antioch, Calif., on Friday, May 17, 2013. Allen is retiring from teaching after 37 years at various schools around the area. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

ANTIOCH -- She was fresh out of college and stepped onto the Fremont Elementary campus. And, in the 37 years since, Sue Allen has remained with the Antioch school district.

For the last five years, she has been at Antioch Middle, currently teaching English and history to sixth-graders. She also guides the two leadership classes filled with seventh- and eighth-graders.

But now she's leaving her long and honorable career.

"When I first started teaching, I was so excited for the new experience," Allen said. "I am now so excited for the new experience of retirement."

On campus, she has collected much more than assignments -- she has gathered memories, recalling the time when a "husband of a current AUSD teacher told me his wife went into teaching because when she was in my sixth-grade class at Belshaw, she was inspired to be a teacher."

Allen also knows other teachers or administrators who were in her classes at that elementary school.

"On my first day of teaching at Belshaw, I wore a silk blouse and tailored pants to look professional. Unfortunately, the temperature reached (more than) 110 that day. There was no air conditioner, and the large windows were all boarded up. There were only a few small windows near the ceiling that could be opened with a long pole.

"After lunch, I turned the lights off to make it somewhat more bearable, but I remember looking out at my 35 students as I read a story to them. They were all splayed and draped over their desks trying to listen the best they could. They were every bit as sweaty and miserable as I was. Somehow, we made it through that day. After school, I went out and bought the biggest fan I could. From then on, I left my silk blouses at home."

One of the best aspects of teaching for Allen has been when students share original ideas for solutions to problems. And, she's learned "there is a constant challenge to find new and different ways to motivate students to want to do their best."

Tricia Campbell, a fellow AMS instructor, said "I am in a bit of denial over Sue leaving us. She is such a delight ... She is such an upbeat, positive person. She's at school early, stays late, gets tons accomplished, and still has a big smile on her face.

"Her energy level is unreal," Campbell added. "She organizes our school dances, created and oversees the student store, supervises our leadership students, prints awards, makes sure event posters are created and posted, and, oh yeah, also teaches her classes. Even on the most out of control, crazy making days, Sue keeps smiling."

Principal Andy Cannon agrees. "To be able thrive as an educator for 37 years is remarkable. Ms. Allen's longevity is proof of her amazing work ethic and relentless determination to educate students. While it would be easy for a teacher to fade into retirement, she continues to march on resolutely. She will not stop until the final bell because her students will become proficient learners by the end of the year.

"She is an inspiration and mentor for us all. She will leave a lasting impression on our school and its staff and students."

While she'll certainly miss school, Allen plans to stay active and busy by "taking up kayaking and joining a hiking club."

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.

In our "Neighbors" series, we give you a personal look at the people who are serving your community. If you would like to nominate someone for this column, contact Judy Prieve at 925-779-7178 or e-mail jprieve@bayareanewsgroup.com.