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Esther Corbett, a teacher at Foothill Elementary School in Pittsburg, read to her first grade class in Pittsburg, Calif., on Friday, May 17, 2013. Esther is retiring from teaching after this school year, and has 34 years in her profession. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

PITTSBURG -- "My favorite things about teaching are the excitement and enthusiasm little ones have about learning and school," Esther Corbett said.

And, she should know, because for 39 years she has been instructing young students on the fine art of learning.

For nearly 30 years, Corbett has taught at Pittsburg's Foothill Elementary, spending the first part of her career there with kindergartners. For the last about 15 years, she's given an enormous amount of energy, instruction and guidance to first-graders.

But, now Corbett is retiring from education.

And, to think her career began where her own education started.

Nearly 40 years ago, her former elementary school principal (Ed Marchoke) hired her to teach at Highlands Elementary in Pittsburg.

"As a student, I thought my teachers were old," she said. "(But) as a young adult working with some of my (childhood) teachers, I realized that weren't that old. Funny how things change," she said. "I was catching up to them."

Although, she's a veteran instructor, along the way, she's learned a thing or two.

"Through the years, I have learned to acknowledge that each class is a new 'learning experience.' And, that I have been fortunate to work with and learn from a great team of teachers through the years. We learn from one another and share our ideas."

Ruth Foster, fellow Foothill teacher, said "Esther is just the kind of person that comes to mind when you think of a kinder or first-grade teacher. She is gentle and kind and speaks to the students in this very sweet and patient way. She is very professional at all times. Her room is very neat, organized and is a cheerful, inviting place to be learning for a 5-, 6- or 7-year-old student.

"Even though she is retiring, she (still) puts in a lot of hours after school working. I admire her dedication, wisdom and professionalism. She is gracious and always greets us with a smile, (and) I will miss her very much." Foster isn't Corbett's only fan.

Ricardo Araiza, Foothill principal, said "(We) have been very fortunate to have Mrs. Corbett as our first-grade teacher. It has been a pleasure and honor to have her as one of our teachers for many years. She has taught different grade levels and has taught many students throughout the year.

"Her wealth of experience in curriculum and pedagogy has had a tremendous educational impact on our students. Former students have come back and thank her for all the things she taught them. She is always very positive, cheerful and a great team player. Mrs. Corbett will be deeply missed by the Foothill family. We wish her the best in her retirement."

Corbett said she would've continued to teach and "having fun" but the district's retirement incentive "inspired" her to move on.

"At the beginning of the school year, I had no intention of retiring. I was hoping to teach the transitional kindergarten class."

With her new-found free time, Corbett hopes to complete many of the projects she's had on hold. "I'm planning to be active in new directions, and anticipating many exciting ventures to open up."

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.

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