According to tradition, the ruby is associated with love and 40th anniversaries. And, this year as Mission Elementary turns 40, there is a sense of love of school, community and teaching.

"I'm proud to be part of a legacy of a great neighborhood school that has a reputation for being a welcoming place to learn," said Monte Gregg, in her fourth year as principal. "I know there are people out there with many stories to tell about growing up (here) still on this campus. We have parents who were students here and now have their children attending. It's wonderful to see generations attending."

The anniversary last month was marked with a round of applause, a chat about the school's history and a treat for students at an upcoming awards assembly. Although the celebration was simple, Gregg wanted a spotlight on three staffers who have been on campus for a combined total of 104 years.

Jim Beck, 37 years: The fourth-grade teacher's connection actually started while the school was being built. As a freshman at Diablo Valley College, he was a teacher's aide at Kimball, where Mission students were housed. "So, in a sense I was here from the beginning," said Beck. "I am the only one left at the school who was hired by the original principal, Ed Gilligan."

He said that despite the many changes, "it has always been like a family. I think that is probably because Mission is mostly under one roof so we have no choice but to get to know one another." Of course, with that many years, come plenty of memories. "Mardella, the kitchen manager, used to prepare these great cinnamon rolls. You could smell them when you came into the parking lot at 7 a.m."

He also recalls taking classes on living history field trips. One of the best, he said, was an overnight trip, which included Principal Ralph Richardson, then-Superintendent Gerald Pangburn and board members Roger Kuehn and Mary Rocha. "It was great."

Sue Linscheid, 36 years: After graduating from Chico, Linscheid moved to Antioch in 1978 and started her career that fall. During her time there, she has taught every grade but fourth. She currently teaches fifth-graders.

"I am frequently asked why I have never left Mission. (It's simple): Why change something that is working?" She has worked under four different principals and with a variety of teaching teams. "Mission is like my second home. We are a close knit family. I am frequently teased (and) called 'Mission Mom.' I really do love working here. We have a wonderful, warm and caring staff, many have become lifelong friends."

And, her years have been filled with many grand memories, including one of her favorites -- a sixth-grade outdoor educational trip to Yosemite.

"I remember one year, we had a visitor in the form of a bear. I remember feeling so frightened. And, I was the one who was supposed to be protecting my kids?"

Rick Rivera, 31 years: Since 1982, Rivera has been the head custodian at the school. He said back in the day, staff dressed up and "kids respected them. I think there were about 400 kids back then."

One of his best memories is joining the sixth-graders for a week's trip to Yosemite. "That was really something." And, he recalls the "cafeteria food was good. No packaged food," he said. "All the cooking was done in the Mission cafeteria daily. We also used trays and real silverware. The kids worked in the dishwashing room."

Principal Gregg said: "I love being at this school with a devoted, dedicated staff; involved, caring parents; and vibrant, amazing students."

She thinks having such long-term staffers is rare, but "once you come to work at Mission, it is a hard place to leave."

If you have school news to share, contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net. You can also reach Judith Prieve at jprieve@bayareanewsgroup.com. Please note: Trine also works part-time with the Antioch Unified School District.