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Lew Disbrow an English teacher at Antioch High School in Antioch, goes over homework with students during class in Antioch, Calif., on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Lew Disbrow will be retiring after teaching for 36 years. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

ANTIOCH -- Even after 38 years of teaching, Lew Disbrow said the best part of his job has "always and first (been) my students.

"I am honored to have had the opportunity to support the young men and women who have shared my classrooms over the years ... in academics, of course, but even better, sharing the enthusiasm that comes with simply exploring ideas and developing personal pride in skills newly acquired or honed."

But after nearly four decades of being in a classroom, the Antioch High English teacher is retiring, simply stating it was time.

Chances are he will miss the nuances and outright tangible signs that have been part of his world for so long, including what he loves to hear: Students telling him with a sense of self-awareness they did not possess in his classes, "You were one of the hardest teachers I ever had. You always made me work and wouldn't take any of my excuses. Thank you. I needed that."

And, chances are strong his memories will linger on long past his final walk on campus, including those "moments when, beyond any curricular concerns, students find their own voice and muster the courage to share a glimpse of their life, their personal struggles and challenges, their fears, their hopes, their dreams.

"To be trusted with these things, which at times are the most difficult to share, simply because they are the most important ...well, I am humbled and honored by their trust."

But chances are also great that he will still run into former students who will "share their stories, introduce their partners and children to me and recall what we did and what we learned together."

So, yes, he is leaving Antioch High but snippets of his teaching past will still be part of his new life's curriculum.

Disbrow started at then-Park Junior High in 1975, and he continues to regularly see one of those young scholars.

"I was one of his students," said Louie Rocha, AHS principal. "He has always been a strong teacher, who has high expectations for all students. He has served as a mentor for new teachers, who have started their teaching career (here).

"He has truly made a significant contribution to the Antioch High community."

After eight years at Park, he taught at several other AUSD schools before spending his last 17 years in Panther Country, primarily teaching senior English.

As one would expect, nearly 40 years brings loads of memories, including double sessions with Antioch and Park junior high students sharing the campus as a result of an earthquake.

For Disbrow, it seems to always come back around to the students, and how he has learned lessons, too.

"The greatest harm we can do to the young women and young men in our classrooms is to underestimate, under challenge and under prepare them."

Another favored gem: "When a teacher works harder than a student, something is dreadfully wrong."

Even before senior Samantha Randazzo stepped into Disbrow's class this year, she made a connection.

"He saw me on campus and asked if I was going to be one of his students," Randazzo said. "From that moment, I knew he made an effort -- that made me feel special."

What makes him a stand out, she said, is that "he genuinely cares. He doesn't just talk to you like a student -- he listens, feels your pain, talks to you heart to heart."

The 17-year-old said Disbrow has helped give her confidence with his support and teaching style.

His post-AUSD plans include continuing his stint as adjunct English instructor at Los Medanos and Diablo Valley colleges, where he has been in the evenings and summers for nearly 10 years. He will also continue with his current project of restoring a 1968 MGC, head to Alaska via motorcycle, do some home projects and read.

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.