Unclassified Info: A longtime relationship comes to an end

By this time next week, I will no longer have kids at R.D. White Elementary School. I know what you are thinking … so what? Children move out of elementary school every year.

While that's true, it's less frequent when a family has a child at one particular elementary school for 11 years, like we did.

With the exception of one year, when I was living in La Crescenta, a Huerta has been enrolled at R.D. White for more than a decade. So it is with a genuine sense of appreciation that I pen a few words of gratitude to all those dedicated teachers, aides, office staffers, custodians and every other person there who taught my children the fundamentals of reading, writing, math and a whole lot more.

Having just moved to Glendale from Silver Lake, I remember with great clarity dropping my son off for his first day of kindergarten. My daughter was in second grade.

Standing outside the fence of the playground, I waited with my son for the teachers to open the gate. Once they did, he lined up with the other kids for the first time.

As the teacher took the kids away, I remember thinking how quickly our kids were growing and my eyes immediately started to water. Not wanting the other parents to see a grown man drown in his own sentimentality, I quickly put my sunglasses on and walked away to sob in the privacy of my car.

The very same ritual would be repeated again when my youngest daughter made her entrance into the kindergarten playground.

Jobs have come and gone. Our family split up. I've relocated six times. Parents and grandparents have died. And through the good, the bad and all of the ugly during the course of these 11 years, R.D. White has been one of the only constants in our life here in Glendale.

I will take with me vivid memories, some heartwarming and some funny, of my daughters participating in the various musicals and other stage events over the years. The teachers and volunteers who dedicated heart and soul to make our kids stars, if only for one night, have my eternal respect.

Of those events, one of the most amusing was a Christmas show performed at the Glendale Marketplace on an unseasonably hot December day. As the kids sang holiday songs in the blazing sun, one student staggered and stumbled around semi-coherently in a thick snowman costume, risking heat stroke merely to provide a visual accent to “Frosty the Snowman.”

I'm grateful for the after-school program, which served as a life raft for our family while we were coping with the challenges of divorce, two homes, two careers and two schedules seemingly in constant conflict. Even though the kids were not enthusiastic about hanging out at school, the program was an important part of our survival in the early years of our divorced family life.

Of all the great memories, I can honestly say I will not miss the assignment to build a California mission model, as every parent of a fourth-grade student must do. While some of the more gung-ho parents may call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I did it three times, so I'm good for at least two more reincarnations, if the gods are listening.

And of course, there's the faculty. To each and every one of you who affected the lives of my children in such positive ways, I want you to know just how grateful I am for your efforts. I always loved hearing about how you looked for the good and encouraged my kids to always do their best. You are all to be commended for your daily commitment to every child who steps into your classroom.

I'd especially like to thank Suzanne Risse. She has been there with us all these years.

She is truly a person who leads by example — and a fine one it is.

Society does not do enough to recognize how important teachers are to our lives. But we ought to, which is why I wanted to say one final thanks to everyone at R.D. White before giving the faculty at Wilson Middle School fair warning.

That's right. Another Huerta child is on the way to invade your hallowed halls.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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