Teachers saying goodbye to Del Oro

Retiring high school instructors recall careers, seek new endeavors
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Four Del Oro High School teachers will be leaving school in June. Al Newton, Jack Pchelkin and Marilyn Rickabaugh are retiring and Kathy Meyers is leaving Del Oro to work permanently at the Placer Union High School District office. Jeff Tooker, assistant district superintendent, called the four “exemplary in what they do,” and said they are “leaving a legacy of excellence.” “All four have been significant to Del Oro culture. They’ve been mentors to many teach-ers,” Tooker added. Jack Pchelkin has taught at the school for 36 years and created the agriculture program and teaches small engine, welding and welding fabrication. “Jack is a legend in the ag and FFA community. He is an icon for the whole state,” said Dan Gayaldo, principal. “He’s always willing to help anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Pchelkin calls his retirement “bittersweet.” He said he won’t miss “paperwork, budget problems, the lack of funding,” but will “miss the kids, projects and FFA program.” “Del Oro has been a great place to work,” Pchelkin said. “The kids are great, the staff is super supportive. The community has always supported what we do. The parents have been a great help.” Pchelkin said he sees a lot of differences since he began teaching. “Students today have less background in tool usage. It used to be these kids grew up on family farms, but we’ve lost the agriculture element so kids don’t grow up using these tools. “Most of the kids aren’t working on their own cars like they used to. There are less voca-tional skills now.” Pchelkin said the processes he teaches are more automated now and tools are robotic and more sophisticated. Pchelkin said he has plenty to keep him busy in retirement. He said he plans to continue living in Loomis, but will spend time hunting, fishing and helping his wife, Carol, raise paint horses. He also is in a partnership on a cattle ranch near the Oregon border and plans to spend time working on it. Al Newton has been teaching for 23 years, 13 of which have been at Del Oro. He de-scribes his feeling about retirement as “ambivalent” because he “wants to retire, but doesn’t want to stop teaching.” “I love academics. I’m sad about leaving the students,” Newton said. He’s taught English, history and government and economics classes and served as Eng-lish department chairman for four years and as social sciences department chairman for three years. “Al Newton helped us raise our academic bar. He touched not only the students, but the faculty,” Gayaldo said. According to Newton, his favorite class has been the advanced placement level of Eng-lish and American history. “The students have a higher academic level. You can have deeper intellectual discus-sions with them,” Newton said. Newton said he likes to keep his expectations for his students high, because “the kids will rise to wherever the bar is set.” “I like the students to focus on learning, not on their grades,” he said. Newton plans to spend his time working in his nursery, involving himself in the commu-nity and riding his bike and taking short trips. “I’d like to continue doing some kind of teaching,” Newton said. The Newtons are a family of teachers. Al’s wife, Debbie, is a grammar school teacher in Loomis and also plans to retire in June. Their daughter Morgan Zerwas is a Del Oro English teacher. Their other daughter, Evin, is completing her student teaching at Del Oro and will be credentialed to teach social science. Marilyn Rickabaugh was a school psychologist with a counseling degree before becom-ing a stay-at-home mom and parent volunteer. “I waited until my youngest was a senior in 1996 before I came back to work as a part-time Del Oro counselor and I took over peer helper,” Rickabaugh said. “Marilyn has not only been a counselor to the students, she’s a counselor of the staff. She’s helped us through the good and bad times,” said Gayaldo. Rickabaugh said she is taking care of her elderly father, working on a book and has speaking engagements. She said she will return next year as a volunteer to help teacher Linda Smith-Raines who will be taking over the peer helper program. “I promised to walk her through it next year,” Rickabaugh said. When asked about her feelings on retirement, Rickabaugh said, “I love kids. I’m not looking ahead right now. I’m in the moment.” Kathy Meyers is not retiring, but she is leaving Del Oro and the senior English classes she’s taught since 1996. Meyers will spend all of her time at the district office as the staff development coordinator. She said she is leaving teaching, but will continue working with teachers on building professional learning communities. She said the “communities” are made up of teachers who instruct the same grade or a common subject. “The teachers work together to improve what the students are doing. I love what I do in staff development,” Meyers said. When asked her thoughts on coming to the end of her career in teaching students, Meyers said, “I’d rather not think about it right now. I’m going