BRENTWOOD -- Because of her 34 years of teaching, Juanita O'Layo is happily loaded down with memories, saying she's especially enjoyed working with her English-language learners.
"There was this student, who came from Mexico during the latter part of his seventh-grade year and spoke absolutely no English. He was frustrated, shy and was extremely upset about having to come to the U.S. At one point, he decided he just couldn't make (it) and stopped trying ... (After a conference), he agreed to give it his all. (He ended up) making great academic and social strides ... by the first half eighth grade, he was taking all of his classes in English and (had) a 4.0 grade-point average."
Today that student is set to graduate from Liberty High and "has his sights on aviation colleges." For the majority of her three-decades plus teaching, O'Layo has been a main staple at Edna Hill Middle School. She also graced the campuses at Brentwood Elementary and Bristow Middle, but has decided to retire.
She said this is the year to say goodbye, feeling it "felt right both in accomplishing what I set out to do in education, which was to make a difference and to achieve a personal sense of accomplishment."
She currently teaches computers to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, along with an academic success class.
While there's plenty to like, O'Layo said her favorite thing about teaching is "I get to impart important knowledge that will help to prepare students for their next level of learning, especially the academic and social connections that extend and build on teaching and learning."
The Pittsburg High graduate said what she's gained from her lifelong career is that "it's not about what you are teaching, it's about the delivery of instruction, how you teach that brings about the optimum success. This is also true with adults."
Although, O'Layo is saying bye to Edna Hill, she'll leave her mark.
Kirsten Jobb, principal, said: "Juanita is the teacher who has a passion for learning. (She) has taught everything from English Learner Development to technology. She enjoys being on the cutting edge of education.
"She values education and believes everyone can find success. She is a genuinely compassionate person who cares for her colleagues and students, and makes our school better because she is in it. We will miss her thoughtfulness and kindness."
Frances Prochaska, co-worker and friend, said: "Juanita has been an example of the Bobcat spirit at Edna Hill. She is a flexible teacher, who has taught electives as well as English Learners. She brings a true sense of compassion to her classroom.
"Juanita is a cancer survivor, who treasures each day of life, understanding that each day is a blessing and full of opportunity. She always greets her colleagues with a spirited 'Hi, Missy!' each morning. (And), no matter her worries, is genuinely interested in the lives and concerns of her fellow Bobcats. She will be missed."
Although O'Layo is leaving the Brentwood campus, she plans to continue teaching as an adjunct professor for the International Apostolic University of Grace and Truth, maintain her role as a pastor and work in theological studies. She also wants to write, travel and volunteer at an oncology hospital.
Contact Trine Gallegos at email@example.com.