Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Brings Memories

Last week my cousin, Margaret (Yaya), called and asked me if I would ride to Flagstaff with her on Memorial Day. She was going up to put flowers on her husband Tony's grave and wanted some company for the ride up to northern Arizona. Of course I said I would go because I would do just about anything for her and I dearly loved Tony.

Cameron and I picked Yaya about about 8:00 a.m. and headed for Flagstaff. Along for the ride was her pug, Maurice Antonio Gomez Gabaldon. Cousin Mo is the reason we have our pugs! When we got to Flagstaff, we left Mo with her grandson, Sam, and went to take the flowers to the cemetery. We first went to the city cemetery to put flowers on the graves of Tony's first wife's family. We then went to the Catholic Cemetery and put flowers on Tony's grave, along with this first wife, Jackie.

I got to thinking about growing up in Douglas and how every Memorial Day we went to Bisbee to put flowers on my great grandparents' graves and then went to the cemetery in Douglas to put flowers on my grandparents' graves. It occurre
d to me that I have not done anything similar on Memorial Day and that my kids never did either. When they were growing up, we always went to Douglas for the summer. However, we usually didn't get down there until mid June because school was out later then. Having no immediate family buried up here, we just never did this.

So this was Cameron's first time for doing something like this. He helped Yaya put the flowers into the ground and we talked about the importance of remembering people.

On the way to Flagstaff, Yaya and I talked a lot about Tony. She told me how much she misses him even now. Tony died in January of 1998. Tony was larger than life. He was an educator and a politician. He served many years in the Arizona State Senate and was a proponent of education. Tony was famous for his Mexican food and fo
r the many fundraisers that he did for different politicians through the years.

After we visited Tony's grave, I asked Yaya if we could show Cameron the residence hall that is named after him at NAU. So we drove over to it and got out and went in. Cameron was able to see the picture of Tony and what was written on the plaque about his service to education and to NAU. Gabaldon Hall at NAU actually overlooks the cemetery where Tony is buried.

Tony was not only known for his Mexican food, he was also known for the wonderful stories that he told. Tony could talk to anyone about anything. Yaya and I talked about how he would probably feel about the way politics in Arizona has become. He would have been very sad to see how things are being handled.

One of my favorite stories about Tony was when he was in the Arizona State Senate. It was about the time that politicians started to think that standardized testing was the "end all, be all" for public education. Having been a teacher and a principal, Tony knew education and was always on the side of public education in our state. He decided to introduce a bill that would require that anyone running for the Arizona Legislature have their IQ score on the ballot next to their name!! Of course, this was done "tongue in cheek," but he truly researched it and wrote it as a regular bill. I remember at the time it made national news. Actually, I think it wouldn't hurt for this to happen today!! It kind of puts things in perspective as far as I am concerned.

As I said, Tony was larger than life. He always had an opinion about something, but could back it up with facts. He and my mom got along great. I absolutely loved the time spent with him and all of my Phoenix cousins over the years. As I told Yaya today, New Year's Eve has not been the same since Tony died. We always had so much fun that night!!

This Thursday, June 3, would have been Tony's 80th birthday. Tony was a wonderful human being and I am so glad that he was a part of my life. I miss him, too!

I am so glad that Yaya asked me to go with her today and I am glad Cameron came with us for another one of the many wonderful lessons that he gets about the importance of family and traditions!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Very Special Night!

Friday was a very special day for my dear friend and teacher, Martha. She was honored by the Gilbert Education Foundation as the Elementary Teacher of the Year. Martha is well deserving of this honor as she has been an incredible teacher at GES for the last several years.

Martha truly cares about each of her students as individuals. She has created a warm, caring, and nurturing environment for the children who have been placed in her classes over the years. She instills in her students a love of literature and writing as well doing a wonderful job in all areas of the curriculum. However, teaching the whole child has been her strength as well as her love for reading and writing.

For the past year and a half, Martha has battled a very invasive form of breast cancer. She found out about it in November of 2008 and stayed home to fight this horrific disease the remainder of that school year. However, her love of teaching and children brought her back to our school last August.

Martha originally was a nurse. She stayed home to have her children and then decided that her passion was teaching. She went back and got her education degree and student taught at our school. We were fortunate to have her as a teacher after she did her student teaching.

Martha came to school every day this year having dealt with chemo, losing her hair, and infection in the port where the chemo was placed, and everything that went along with her fight against this awful disease. Every day she had a smile on her face and greeted her children and taught them everything that the fourth grade curriculum required. She never let her illness get in the way of her teaching.

At the end of March, Martha found out that the cancer had come back with a vengeance. She knew that she had to do everything to fight this insidious disease. As a result, she has not been able to come back to school.

When the Gilbert Educational Foundation asked for nominations for the Teacher of the Year, we decided to nominate Martha. Each of her students wrote a letter in support of this nomination. The letters from the children where heartfelt and I know that is the reason she was chosen. The recurring theme from the students was how when they walked through the door, they gave her the courage to teach because of her love for them. They were her sunshine and strength!!

Friday night she was honored at the Gilbert Educational Foundation dinner. Thirteen of us attended along with Martha's husband, sister and her three wonderful children.

I have to say that I am honored to be her principal. I was proud to sit at the table with her family.

Candy, one of our fantastic retired teachers, has been subbing for Martha. She put together a book with all of the letters and a poem that each of the children wrote for her. The book is beautiful and is actually a published book. We were also able to dedicate a page in our yearbook to Martha because she has been an inspiration to all of us.

Martha's spirit is hard to put into words. I can honestly say that it has been a privilege for me to know this wonderful teacher. I have learned much about courage and determination no matter what life brings you.

I love quotes and Tom Brokaw says that it is easy to make a buck, but hard to make a difference. Martha has made a huge difference to many!
Thank you for that, Martha. You are an inspiration to me and to many others!!