Retired Glendale elementary school teacher Pat Ganje said she knew she wanted to be a teacher the day she began kindergarten, and her passion only grew. After working her dream job teaching in Glendale and Europe for more than 40 years, Ganje received numerous outstanding teacher awards before retiring in 1992.
Her peers at the California Retired Teachers Assn. took notice of her efforts and recognized Ganje's dedication to young students earlier this month when the retired teachers of the Glendale-Foothill Division 11 selected Ganje as one of two honorees to be spotlighted for her extensive work in the association and local communities.
"I was excited when I heard the news," Ganje said. "I thought it was wonderful."
The Glendale City Council gave Ganje a proclamation of appreciation for her nearly lifelong work teaching young students and leading them in volunteer programs. Bea Wojtyla, the retired teacher who nominated Ganje to receive the honor, said she has known her fellow retiree for more than 20 years, and Ganje has always shown a special affection for teaching elementary school students.
"She's very passionate and always willing to serve to help the children, even in her retirement," Wojtyla said.
Ganje earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary education at Cal State Los Angeles and immediately began working as a teacher for Glendale elementary schools in the 1950s. She said she loved teaching young students because she believes they are the most eager to learn — especially when it comes to reading.
"I like to teach reading," Ganje said. "It's amazing to see when they finally get it. You try so many ways to teach reading — try every way with every child. Then suddenly, something hits, and you can tell the minute they get it. It's the most exciting thing in the world."
Ganje taught at various elementary schools in Glendale before deciding to take her talents abroad and teach American children at Air Force bases in England, Germany and Spain. She spent the next portion of her career traveling back and forth between Glendale and Europe, tutoring young students in education and values.
"I just wanted to do something different than teach in Glendale," Ganje said. "I had lived all my life in Glendale and wanted to travel, see more of the world, and I continued to do that. I've been to 102 countries."
Ganje also spent a large part of her teaching life volunteering, helping young students raise money and giving back to the Glendale community. She still helps lead Job's Daughters, a Masonic youth organization for girls and young women steered toward practicing Christianity and exploring other cultures and religions. As a volunteer for the organization, Ganje helps raise money for Shriner's Hospital for Children in downtown Los Angeles.
Now living at Villa Gardens retirement home in Pasadena, Ganje volunteers for the facility's tutoring program, library and community store. She also participates as an officer for the retired teachers association.
Even though she no longer teaches as a profession, Ganje said her passion for teaching has not faded, and she'll continue to give back to her community as long as she can.
"I think life has been so good to me," she said. "I just want to do things for other people and help them."