This year, 17 educators retire from Ramona Unified School District. The group is full of seasoned professionals, some with more than 30 years of experience. They each leave behind a legacy that will be remembered by their colleagues, parents, and students.
Lori Tipane of Hanson Elementary has been teaching for 37 years, 34 of them for RUSD.
She has spent her entire RUSD career teaching kindergarten.
“What will I miss the most about teaching? This is a tough one for me. I thoroughly enjoy each and every day of working with children. I will miss the enthusiastic joy of being surrounded by eager little ones wanting to learn. I will miss my daily contact with all my co-workers at Hanson. We are a true family working together for the good of all the children. I will miss that greatly. Our staff is a group who truly cares about one another and this makes it an ideal place to work. I will also miss creating lessons for kindergarten children.”
She also had too many moments to pick just one, but it thrills her when students come back to share what they have done in their lives. On a daily basis she loves the “joy of a little one reading for the first time or understanding math, and just the look of accomplishment on their faces is a thrill for me. Seeing the children enjoying learning is the best for me.”
She has been honored as teacher of the year a and has received numerous PTA awards. In retirement, she plans to spend time with her husband and extended family, do a little traveling, work in her grandson’s classroom, co-author a children’s book with her son, work in some capacity with the homeless, and volunteer at Hanson. “I am grateful to be retiring young in spirit, healthy, and happy.”
Bobbi Hardiman of Barnett Elementary has been with RUSD for 34 years. She leaves the district as a third grade-teacher and has always been a part of primary grades, both mainstream and special education.
“I sometimes wish I was back teaching kindergarten where life is so innocent, but I believe I will really miss my colleagues who are there when all you can do is laugh.”
Her most rewarding memories are from the classes of 9-year-old physically handicapped students when she was first teaching. “The power of their courage made the entire school population stronger.”
Her future plans include travel adventures and a kitchen remodel.
Jose Smith of Olive Peirce Middle School teaches seventh-grade health and science. He started at Ramona High in 1976 and also taught at the UCSD Teacher Education Program from 1990-2000.
He will miss working with the students in the classroom and the horticulture field trips. His greatest teaching achievements include teaching a seventh-grader who had just arrived in the country from Mexico and then five years later driving that student to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to enroll in college, becoming a finalist for California Teacher of the Year in 1999, and helping new teachers start their careers.
A talented harpist, he plans to continue his volunteer work playing music at Rady’s Children’s Hospital for patients, parents and staff as well as work on his writing and composing. He also plans work on his beekeeping and consulting on horticulture and fruit tree propagation.
Eileen Tierney of Olive Peirce Middle School began her educational career in Ramona in 1973, working at Glen Oak, a 24-hour home for emotionally disturbed girls. The program was eventually absorbed by RUSD and she was transferred to Ramona Intermediate School in 1979. From there, she was one of the original members of OPMS when it opened in 1985. She spent 18 years teaching special education and the past 16 years as a counselor.
“I will miss connecting with students and their families. I will miss touching and nurturing those human feelings and being instrumental in the positive growth of our most precious resource, our children.”
After more than 30 years, she found it hard to pinpoint just one moment, but counts parental gratitude and acknowledgement at the top. “Sometimes you hear from parents and former students, years after your lives have crossed, and their gratitude and acknowledgement validate your work and confirm that you did indeed touch their souls.”
She is not quite ready for total retirement yet, so she plans on working part time in special education.
“Teaching reading was always one of my first loves, so returning to that might be on my horizon.”
Jane Curtan of Ramona Elementary has taught special education preschool for 20 years, all at RE. She will miss ”my staff and the kids the most when I leave. I have worked with many children and parents in Ramona. Each one has been special to me.”
She will move to Florida next year and hopes to continue teaching there for a few more years.
Kitty White of Barnett Elementary has been with RUSD for 18 years, mostly teaching in the third grade, which she has always loved. “I will miss my wonderful colleagues whom have always offered encouragement and support. I will always remember the excitement of my students when they made new discoveries of things they never knew before.”
In retirement, she plans to travel with her husband in their motor home, garden and occasionally help her daughter in her classroom.
Herlinda MacKinnon of Hanson Elementary teaches a first- and second-grade combination class. She has been teaching for 15 years. “I’ll miss most when a first-grader looks at you and says, ‘Teacher I can read it all by myself. Can I read it to you?’”
Her greatest teaching achievement has been teaching in general. “I have been very fortunate to have been a part of my students’ lives. I am also very grateful to all the parents that shared their children with me.”
She has no immediate retirement plans except to reflect on the memories of the past few years and see where her new path in life takes her.
Bernadette Faust of Hanson Elementary teaches second grade. She began working at RUSD in 1983 as an instructional aide and went on to substitute before she became a teacher in 1988.
“It goes without saying that a teacher will miss the students, but just as much I’ll miss the other teachers and secretaries.”
Her greatest achievement is an accomplishment with one particular student. “Several times I’ve had older students in my first/second combo class who had never been to school before. Once I had a 10-year-old who had come from a very remote rural area and had never been to school. He was so happy to finally get the chance to go to school. He ‘visited’ my class for part of the day for two years. After that he was able to be in an age appropriate grade all day. My proudest moment was walking past the middle school marquee and seeing his name as Student of the Month feeling that I had helped launch a very promising student.”
She plans to increase her activities with the Ramona Stars 4-H and with the Ramona Grange.
Dave Schmale of Olive Peirce Middle School teaches seventh- and eighth-grade special education math support. He has been with RUSD since 1981 and has always been a part of special education. He will miss not being able to interact with his students and colleagues on a daily basis.
“I love teaching and I will miss the sense of purpose I have enjoyed as a teacher. I shall find another way to feel like a contributing member of society. I will probably remain involved in education in some way.”
He has countless memories of his students, parents and friends. “I have had the pleasure of teaching the children of former students and have enjoyed this very much. I am proud of the work I have done with the Ramona Teachers Association and as a mentor teacher for RUSD. All in all it has been a very satisfying career.”
In retirement, he plans to travel with his wife (hopefully doing a few cruises a year), spend time with his children and “just enjoy being together 24/7/365!” He also plans to take college classes that have been on his list but he has never had the time to pursue. In addition, he will do a lot of reading, walking, swimming and cooking.
Mike Harrelson of Olive Peirce Middle School and Ramona High School is a speech therapist. In his 32-year career, he has worked at every school in the district except Barnett Elementary.
“As much as I enjoy the young adults with whom I work and the wonderfully talented colleagues with whom I share so much, it is the community of Ramona I will miss the most. Like 45 percent-plus of the teachers employed by RUSD, I live ‘down the hill.’ For 32 years my commute has been one hour up and one hour back. Ramona has become my second home and, in many ways, I know it and its lovely people better than I know my home community of Jamul. I will still visit, but I will miss seeing it change day-by-day.”
He will miss his work with the Ramona Teachers Association, which he has been a part of for 30 years. “I have cherished every moment of it. Being elected by my peers to be an RTA leader has been a ‘value added benefit’ of working in the Ramona Unified School District. I will miss this part of my job the most.”
His wife, who is a speech therapist for another district, will be retiring this year as well, and their first plan is to sleep late, linger over the newspaper with a cup of coffee and view the approaching day with a leisurely eye.
“We both love to cook and we will dig deep into our cookbook collection for complicated recipes. For a long time I have planned to learn three new skills as a retiree: playing the harmonica, mixology and ornamental horticulture.”
Jan Farmer of Olive Peirce Middle School teaches seventh- and eighth-grade English. She has been with OPMS for 22 years and will miss working with the students the most.
“I have so many wonderful memories, but some that I really enjoyed are: each and every day learning something new from my students, working with OP students and Ramona residents to create and plant ‘Nancy’s Garden,’ being selected three times as mentor teacher for the environmental arts and the Shakespeare Festival, and being nominated by one of my students for Best Teachers in America.”
She plans to work in the arts and volunteer with her church in retirement.
Dave Colegrove of Olive Peirce Middle School teaches seventh grade world history. He started in the district in 1980 as an adaptive physical education (PE) teacher at Ramona Junior High. He also worked at RHS for four years before he began at OPMS.
He believes his greatest contribution to community was as a track coach for 25 years at high school. “I have also coached at Escondido High, Mira Mesa, Crawford High, San Pasqual and Poway. My athletes have accumulated $420,000 of scholarships.”
He plans to keep up with his student athletes, as it has been such a memorable part of his career.
Dobbie Wahl of Ramona High School teaches 9th grade PE and aerobics. She has spent 19 years teaching PE, health, and psychology. She also coached varsity volleyball for 10 years, varsity softball for one year and junior varsity for 15 years. She also coached freshman basketball for one year. She stopped coaching when her son Hunter, a sophomore, began to compete in sports.
“I will miss the camaraderie with my fellow colleagues, as many are very good friends of mine, and the way a student lights up as if to say, ‘I got it.’ Above all, how comfortable I have felt to be part of a school community as a student, a parent and last but not least as a staff member.”
Her favorite memories have been teaching and coaching alongside fellow teachers, Mr. Bevill, Mr. Bringham, Coach Clark, Mr. Cosentino, Mr. & Mrs. Holt, Mr. Bess, Tambo, Mr. Bossenbrook, and Mr. Jordan. “Working with an awesome staff that are not only top-notch educators but a group of people is something I will miss immensely.”
She is proud to have reached the CIF semi-finals with the girls volleyball team from 1991-94, and her softball team won league in 2006. She isn’t retiring officially yet, just resigning, as she and her family are moving to South Carolina for her husband’s career.
“As for my career goals, I plan to obtain my master’s in psychology while teaching and coaching whatever comes my way — and, take time to enjoy our ski boat and canoe.”
Bill Bevill of Ramona High School has been teaching for 32 years, all at RHS. He’s done everything from coaching football, softball, baseball and being an athletic trainer for five years to being the English as a Second Language (ESL) coordinator for four years. He taught English for 18 years, advised the school paper for 21 years and has been teaching photography for the past 14 years.
“I’ll miss the daily interaction with students — good and bad. It seems to keep you younger and I know it keeps you sharper. I’ll also miss the close relationships you make with some students that last well beyond their high school days.”
His greatest moments revolve around the opportunities he’s had developing new programs for students. “I was the first athletic trainer here, I built an award-winning newspaper, and I developed (pun intended) a great photo program that continues to win top awards at the San Diego County Fair. My satisfaction comes when I receive those letters from students who are now English teachers, sports medicine personnel, members of the media services and professional photographers.”
In retirement he will tackle the “honey-do” list but mainly looks forward to car trips during the off-tourist season so he can go to those places he has read about — and finally take photographs for himself.
Leanne Plunkett of Mt. Woodson has been with the district for 26 years. She was hired to be a resource specialist for Ramona Intermediate School and moved to MW 21 years ago, teaching first, fifth, and sixth grades.
”I will miss being a part of the greatest staff in Ramona. However, I plan to sub and volunteer at Mt. Woodson and work again with sixth-graders.”
Her greatest moments have been being a part of Mount Woodson’s two distinguished school awards and the National Blue Ribbon Award. “I was a part of the writing team for each award. The trip to Washington, D.C., for the national blue ribbon was definitely a highlight. As a teacher, my greatest moments have been when my former students have come by to see me and have said I have made a difference in their lives. I have had many former students go on to college and become professionals. At our time capsule unveiling, I had a former student tell me what a difference I have made for him in life and that ‘he hears my voice’ when teaching his own children. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Next year, when she’s not at school, she plans to become more active in her jazzercise class and spend more time at her vacation home in Big Bear Lake.
“I am retiring because the (district’s retirement) package was so good, and I was hoping to make room for one of our new teachers. However, I don’t feel like I’m done being a teacher in some capacity.”
Beverly Spiker of Ramona High School has been teaching culinary arts for 33 years. She will miss her students the most. Her fondest memories include culinary competitions, her ice carving class (with a chain saw!) and being featured on a television segment with Chef Larry Banares.
In retirement, she looks forward to traveling, working in her succulent and cactus garden, spending time with her grandchildren, sewing and “kicking back in general.”
Kathie Schweitzer of Ramona Elementary has been with RUSD for 10 years and has taught kindergarten for most of the time. Prior to coming to Ramona, she worked in Northern California. She will greatly miss the creativity and fun that her children bring to learning as well as her kindergarten team teachers who have become her good friends.
“There are many special moments in my 20 years. Each spring I marvel at how much kindergarten students learn. And, the first time the students read a book on their own is priceless.”
She is an avid gardener, so she plans to be out there planting and weeding during retirement. She also has a river cruise on the Rhine River planned next year. “And, I have grandchildren that need hugs and kisses.”
Also set to retire this year was Ramona’s most veteran teacher, Gail Roper, who died on March 18. She taught for 38 years.