Gary Knackstedt started teaching in the Lodi Unified School District back in 1972 because it was one of the only places that offered him a job. Teaching gigs, he said, were hard to come by so the California State University, San Jose, graduate took a position here.
Little did he know 35 years later he would be among the certificated employees with the longest tenure.
He and five other teachers will receive awards Thursday for their service to the district. Linda Bazett, Lorentina Carroll, Susan Ferrero, Paul Lovotti and Carol Smith-Dupree have also taught in the district for 35 years.
Employees who have worked for Lodi Unified for 25 or more years will be recognized as well.
Ferrero, who is actually a Lodi High graduate, attended California State University, Chico, but, like Knackstedt, could not find a job. She returned home to substitute when she got a phone call that a district teacher was in the hospital and someone who could teach shorthand and typing was needed.
She started in 1972 at Tokay High School where she still teaches.
After coaching for every year during his first 32 years in Lodi Unified, Knackstedt now serves as the school's athletic director.
Lodi Unified School District employees to be recognized for their years of serviceCertificated, 25 years
Susan Adams-Gordinier, John Armenta, Sandra Culbertson, Gay DeGeorge, Jose Echaniz, Joan Erreca, Mary Jacques, Martha Sosa, Michael Kennedy, Kyle Rohde, and Patricia Drouin
Classified, 25 years
Catherine Bender, Michael Bussey, Salvador Munoz and Rebecca Octave
Management, 25 years
Certificated, 30 years
William Baumgartner, Luann Casey, Barry Clark, Dana Dodson, Gerald Fish, Steve Flaherty, Timothy Goudie, Jack Loduca, Annie Mar, Deborah Marks, Eugenia Mason, Patrick Murray, Maureen Ryan, Susan Scott, and Douglas Smith
Classified, 30 years
Debra Gruber, Paula Handel, Penny Lexau, Rosie Ortiz, Carol Pohlman and Laurie Tinkey
Management, 30 years
Certificated, 35 years
Linda Bazett, Lorentina Carroll, Susan Ferrero, Gary Knackstedt, Paul Lovotti and Carol Smith-Dupree
Source: Lodi Unified
In his teaching career, he said the biggest change has been the curriculum and mandated testing which he feels has killed elective programs. When he started 35 years ago, the school had seven full time business teachers and offered 13 different business classes. He is now the only business teacher and only teaches three classes.
Lovotti, who teaches math at Tokay High, feels sports are less emphasized than they used to be.
"I feel (that) is a big mistake. The more we get kids involved with school activities, the better we all are because the involved kids don't get into as much ntrouble and become better citizens after they graduate," he said.
Although a physical education major, he was hired to teach math at Woodbridge Middle School. Today, in addition to teaching the subject, he has coached in the district for more than 35 years.
Carroll started as a pre-school teacher in Lodi Unified before moving up to kindergarten at the former Woodbridge Elementary School. Except for a 10-year stint as a first-grade teacher, she has taught kindergarten for more than two-thirds of her career.
When she started teaching kindergarten, she said the biggest issue was ensuring children were potty-trained before enrolling.
"Now if they came to school and weren't, we'd probably send them to the child psychologist," said Carroll who now teaches at Davis Elementary in north Stockton.
Associate Superintendent Catherine Pennington is the longest tenured administrator, having come to the district as an elementary teacher in 1977.
When she couldn't find a job here after graduating from University of the Pacific, she returned to her native Vallejo where she worked for a year before coming back to Lakewood School. She was familiar with the campus since it's where she performed her student teaching.
Pennington said she had no plans of teaching anything but elementary-age students, but did teach social studies and English language to junior highers at Lodi Middle.
In 1989, she made the transition into administration when she became the vice principal at Lakewood and split her time coordinating staff development in the district office.
So what's the best part about working for the district?
"I've established great rapport and respect for the people I work with," Pennington said.
"The best part of being part of the Lodi High School staff is the friendships that I have made over the decades with staff, students, many of who are now staff members, and administrators."
Employees who have worked for Lodi Unified for more than 25 years will be honored at a reception Thursday, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the district office.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.