Loomis teacher is inspired by students' growth

Carleen Foley has been a kindergarten teacher for 21 years
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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How many people do you know who receive at least a dozen hugs before their work day has even begun? “This morning I was struck with how joyful it is to arrive at school every day,” said Placer Elementary School kindergarten teacher Carleen Foley, as she considered those hugs. For 21 years, Foley, 73, has taught kindergarten and started her days with student embraces. Foley started her teaching career in the Loomis Union School District 39 years ago as an eighth-grade math teacher at Franklin Elementary. While many of her peers have already retired, Foley chooses to continue working and counting her hugs. The instructor said it is the amount of growth her students experience during their kindergarten year that keeps her coming back for more. “The growth in kindergarten is phenonimal. You can really see that what you do makes a difference,” Foley said. Foley said her favorite part of the school year is the first week of school when she gets to know her new students. “Every year is different. It never gets boring,” she said. Foley grew up in Massachusetts and was in the Civil Air Patrol in high school. After graduating, she joined the U.S. Air Force and became a drill instructor. “I suspect that was why I was hired to teach eighth-grade math at Franklin,” Foley joked. Before becoming a teacher, Foley left the Air Force, married and moved to Roseville where she raised three children and attended college on the G.I. Bill. Foley said kindergarten has changed over the years. She said her first kindergarten class had 36 students in it and was more like preschool. “That was before state standards. Kindergartners learned their alphabet and how to write their name,” Foley said. She said modern class sizes have been drastically reduced and students now learn material that used to be taught in first grade. Foley said her students spend the first part of the school year learning to be kindergartners and after Christmas break, they spend the rest of the year learning about being first-graders. “It’s exciting for them to discover how to read and it’s rewarding for the teacher,” Foley said. Foley said she has a very structured teaching style and her students know what to expect. She said keeping a routine helps the students stay focused. Carolyn Cowles, Placer School principal, said, “Mrs. Foley is the ultimate kindergarten teacher. She continues to keep her knowledge and teaching strategies current, but knows when the ‘old way’ is just what the kids need.” Cowles said year after year parents enroll their children for kindergarten at Placer School just to be in Foley’s class. “She’s an excellent teacher. She works long hours, likes to try new things and continues to seek mentoring to become a better teacher,” Cowles said. Foley’s students seem to agree. Kyle Tate, 6, said, “I like her because she teaches me a lot – like how to write.” Kyle’s twin brother, Ryan, said he especially likes when the class gets to “have a snack at table two.” “I love her because she is pretty,” said Josh Wilcox, 6. Sophia Goetluck, 6, said she thinks Foley is a good teacher because “she’s very pretty and nice to kids.” Ande Boyer, 5, said, “I like to listen to her because she is my teacher. My favorite is when she reads a story to us.” After Christmas break, Foley said “things really start to click” for her students. She said it won’t be hard for her to say goodbye to them at the end of the school year because she will be seeing them for many years to come. “Even when they’re in eighth grade, their personality will be basically the same. I still get lots of hugs and help from my former students,” Foley said.