Hundreds of years of combined teaching experience in front of students did not prevent tears, a loss for words, nerves and giddiness from many of the 28 honorees during a retirement and 25-year appreciation celebration held Wednesday by the Burbank Teachers Assn.
The union recognized 16 retiring instructors and 12 teachers who have completed 25 years of service with the Burbank Unified School District.
One of the teachers honored at Pickwick Gardens was the association’s president, Diana Abasta, who said she took a $10,000 pay cut to teach in Burbank 25 years earlier because she believed it was the better district compared to where she taught before, the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“This is a tremendous [event] because everyone deserves a moment in the sun,” Abasta said. “This is appreciation teachers deserve.”
Instructors completing 25 years were recognized at the luncheon and received a pin, among many of the accolades.
Retiring teachers were introduced by a friend, colleague or spouse, who spoke briefly before the honoree also made a short speech.
Teachers were handed a crystal apple and given a litany of proclamations from the offices of Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy.
Glen Jaffe, an American history teacher at Muir Middle School, spent over 40 years teaching, including the past 31 with Burbank Unified.
Jaffe said stepping away wasn’t a part of his plans until recently because he came back two years ago after having missed six months while recovering from a fall at Muir in which he broke his back and wrist.
“It just never occurred to me to retire,” Jaffe said. “I just had to go through all the physical therapy and get better, and I really enjoyed these last two years.”
He added, “Now it’s time and I’m looking forward to playing music – my wife and I scuba dive – and there’s a world of opportunity out there.”
Not only has Emerson Elementary teacher Janet Harlan spent 37 years with the district, but she’s taught in the same classroom the past 36 years.
Harlan, who has taught transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, said she “truly loves” her job but felt the moment was right for a change.
“There comes a time when you realize there’s more to life outside of Emerson Elementary School,” she said. “There’s more to life outside of Burbank. There’s more to life outside of California, and that’s what I plan to experience.”
Like Harlan, Providencia Elementary’s Lynn McClellan also completed 37 years, though as a resource-specialist-program teacher, helping students with special-education needs.
“This is a real phobia for me, speaking, so I did not prepare anything, but all I can say it’s been my honor and privilege to work in Burbank for the last 36, 37 years and 41 years in education,” McClellan said. “I’m looking forward to retirement. I did retire in December, so I had a little taste of what it’s like and, so far, it’s pretty good.”
Burbank Unified retirees also included Irene Boelke, Gregory Izay and Linda Walmsley of Roosevelt Elementary, Fernando Camacho and Kevin Duffy of Burbank Adult School, Les Cohen and Rosemary Mitchell of Burroughs High, Nunush Haroian and Judy Shalhoub of Burbank High, Bradley Frank of Muir Middle School, Teresa Scheerer of Disney Elementary, Mary Schindler of Miller Elementary, and Sandra De Surra of Stevenson Elementary.
Besides Abasta, Dawn Barnes and Traci Fellman of Luther Burbank Middle School, Agnes Hoover and James Koontz of Muir Middle School, Patricia Ivankovic and Michelle MacNeil of Washington Elementary School, Christopher Bickelmann of Burbank High, Nicole Diamond of Stevenson Elementary, Margaret Hess-Witucki of Magnolia Park School, Rachelle Shipstad of Roosevelt Elementary School, and Roseann Webb of McKinley Elementary, were all honored for their 25 years of service.