Editor's note: This is the final in our series of stories on retiring teachers in East Contra Costa.

BRENTWOOD -- He actually left campus six months ago, but the ties that bind Jim Nabas to La Paloma High School are still strong.

Fellow teacher Kristen Capps said, "Jim was the core of La Paloma. His famous quote, 'Hear that, that's opportunity knocking,' was something that stuck with many over the years.

He wasn't just a teacher but a mentor to the students and the staff.

He cared about each student like they were his own child. We miss him dearly."

All 38 years of Nabas' career have been with the Liberty Union High School District, including his first four years at Liberty High. "I taught art, crafts, metal shop and social studies," he said.

He then moved to La Paloma, sharing his talent there for 34 years by teaching a variety of subjects, including history, government, photography, computer and art.

In his time there, he also led the Brentwood school's work experience program, served as the lead teacher, and occasionally substituted as principal.

In his nearly 40 decades of educating, he said he's been especially "fond of working with students to design and construct the school's signs.

One of these signs was brought from the old La Paloma school site to its present location."

He decided to become a teacher because, simply put, "I find it very rewarding working with students."

His retirement plans have included spending more time with family ("especially my grandkids"), working on home projects and "fishing whenever possible."

Being away from that oh-so-familiar campus, he misses working with the students and "seeing them achieve successes through personal growth."

And La Paloma's staff miss him.

Principal Roy Bennett said, "I'm new this year, so I haven't had the privilege of knowing Jim as well as some. I can say he's a great teacher who really connected with students."

Colleague John Boone enjoyed working with Nabas.

"Everybody who ever went here remembers Jim," Nabas said.

"I have neighbors now who remember having been taught by Jim.

"I asked him as he was leaving if he would be OK (if we asked) the school board to dedicate one of our buildings on our new campus in his name.

"Being the modest man that he is, he simply said he already had that, (referring to) The Gym."