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Lodi school district teacher retiring after 39 years at same school

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Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2000 10:00 pm

When Fran Vera started teaching first grade at Davis School, women and girls wore skirts and dresses, most students walked to school and Davis was its own tiny school district.

Since then, Vera has seen fashions become more liberal, the proliferation of buses and the school district merged with Lodi Unified School District.

After 39 years with the school, Vera plans to retire in two weeks.

District officials say she may have broken a record for Lodi Unified for the number of years she has taught at one school site.

Even more unique, Vera has taught the same grade the entire time, except for one year when she instructed a combination class of first- and second-grade students.

Vera, 60, jokes her career longevity may run in the family.

Her father owned a drugstore and worked as a pharmacist for 49 years in Stockton. "I don't think I could have worked until then," she said.

As for her teaching selection, Vera said it was a natural choice - first grade is the most impressionable.

Vera has taught more than 1,100 students during her time at Davis. Some former students stop by the school to visit occasionally, she said.

Two of Vera's former students work alongside her at Davis. Teachers Dawn Drake and Karen Hoff said Vera inspired many students to work hard and achieve their goals.

"She expects the best out of her children," Hoff said. "She's really made an impact on the whole community."

Drake echoed her sentiment.

"She's one of the reasons I went into teaching," Drake said.

Drake remembers Vera's beehive hairdo when she was a student in her class in 1965.

Though the hairdo has since changed, Drake said Vera's patient and loving demeanor with her students hasn't.

"All the children love her," she said.

Davis Principal Kathy Scott calls Vera a "natural" teacher.

Scott first met Vera when she taught kindergarten in an adjacent classroom.

Vera always came to work with a smile and never raised her voice at the children, Scott said.

Sitting on the floor Friday, Vera read a large book, "The Way to Captain Yankee's" with the students who listened attentively.

Scott points to Vera's attributes.

"What I've found extremely impressive is she remains current in her teaching," Scott said. "She's always embraced change with open arms."

Vera said she learned her flexibility early in her career.

She's seen education change through new reading programs, the addition of computers to the classroom and the creation of a year-round schedule.

"I'm glad I was able to go with it," Vera said. "That was the key to surviving 39 years."

She's also observed more academic challenges presented to students in the classroom.

"The curriculum has changed tremendously," she said. "Students are required to know much more now."

The Stockton native said she always knew she wanted to teach.

After graduating from St. Mary's High School in 1957, she went to study at California State University, Sacramento majoring in Spanish. She graduated in 1961 and started working for the kindergarten through eighth-grade school in the fall.

Her retirement was well thought out, she said.

"I pondered it several times in the past. My friend said, 'Don't do it until you're ready,'" she said.

With her 60th birthday passing and the new millennium approaching, she knew it was time.

Vera will miss the daily contact with children the most, she said.

She plans to travel with her husband, John Vera, to Paris and Italy in the fall.

She also intends to work as a volunteer with neglected and abused children perhaps at the Mary Graham Children's Shelter, she said.

"I could continue to enjoy (teaching), but I just feel you have to stop sometime," she said.

Comments about this story? Send mail to Julie Zuber Giese

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