Name: Juanita Rynerson
When did you start teaching? 1970, at Etiwanda, near Cucamonga. I moved up in 1972 to the East Bay. I never taught more than three years in a place till I got my job in Albany in 1989 at . I’d taught every grade level through eighth, except for kindergarten and sixth. I was hired as a combination third- and fourth-grade teacher at Marin.
How did you like teaching fourth grade? I stayed as a fourth-grade teacher for nine years. I loved the curriculum, the social studies; we did the “Ship Trip” at Hyde Street Pier. I would take my kids to Pt. Reyes, to the education center, when it didn’t cost as much.
What I loved about fourth-grade teaching was that I realized [that] what made a difference in my life was reading and [other] experiences that unlocked the world for me. Growing up in South San Francisco, I was raised by my grandmother. I didn’t have music lessons [or other after-school activities]. For me, when I started learning about other parts of the world and the way things work, it was a discovery. I wanted to provide children access to those same discoveries.
Why did you switch to second grade? I had a chance to have 20 students per class; I went back and forth between third and second grade for four years.
What do you like about second-graders? Seven-year-olds are at the beginning of a golden age, between seven and ten, when they are beginning to become aware of their own confidence and their effect on the world.
Did anything surprise you about second-graders? That in September they’re breathtakingly young.
Some people would say you were crazy to take second-graders camping. How did you decide you could handle that? I had been doing it with my fourth-graders, and I didn’t want to give it up. I also started Day of the Dead and Rancho Day at Marin. Day of the Dead is my favorite; it’s such a positive validation of family and ancestors, which is a second-grade theme.
How has teaching – the curriculum, the methodology, the population – changed for you over the years? I think that children seem to expect to be entertained, I think that the use of video games dulls them to the feelings of other children – you know, that “pow pow” thing. I love the parents and children. I especially care for the parents, because I was there once. I think that [children] are too busy; they have too many after-school activities. The kids are very programmed and don’t have enough downtime.
I take great pleasure in seeing the children and parents [of Albany] through the years. I feel that I’ve been a part of the people that they’ve become.
It’s time to pass on the torch.
What are your plans for after retirement? I have a lot of books to read. I want to travel, garden. I have two grandchildren, and I might do a little volunteering at the school. I’m going to art camp; I want to do a little acting – improv.
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