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Bird Rock and La Jolla elementary schools bid farewell to retiring employees

Lorene LaCava, left, holds a sign made for her during a surprise parade
Lorene LaCava, left, holds a sign made for her during a surprise parade recognizing her retirement from Bird Rock Elementary school after 25 years.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

As the two-week winter break begins for students and staff across San Diego Unified School District, three staff members from Bird Rock Elementary School and La Jolla Elementary School are beginning a much longer break: retirement. They are part of the 370 district employees who opted for an early retirement package and whose last day with students was Dec. 18.

Lorene LaCava is retiring from BRES after 25 years, the last 23 teaching kindergarten after a year each teaching science and fifth grade.

LaCava, who herself has been a Bird Rock resident since childhood, said her “dream was to be in kindergarten [education],” inspired by her daughter’s kindergarten teacher at BRES. “When I volunteered in that classroom, I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up.”

LaCava said what she’ll miss about teaching are the challenges, “puzzling out how to reach and teach each of the children,” she said, and “the world of missing teeth and play. It’s a sweet world to be part of.”

She said she’ll also miss her colleagues and the parent community. “There’s a sense of teamwork,” she said. “It elevates all of us when we work together.”

LaCava said she looks forward to “getting more balance back into my life, having more family and friend time, things I can’t do because of the job I have.”

LaCava, left, with former students Catharine Stuart-Chafoo and Matthew Stuart-Chafoo.
LaCava, left, with former students Catharine Stuart-Chafoo and Matthew Stuart-Chafoo.
(Courtesy)

LaCava is “everything that’s right with this world,” said La Jolla resident Susan Stuart. Three of Stuart’s six children were students of LaCava’s; a fourth is in LaCava’s class currently. “She loves the community; she loves the environment. She really instills that sense into the students.”

LaCava teaches “with love and kindness, respect and inclusion,” Stuart said. “This was her calling. She leaves everything better than she finds it.”

Stuart said her kids said LaCava was “their favorite teacher, ever. My kids just love her. She inspires them to do great things.”

BRES planned a surprise parade as a farewell for LaCava the afternoon of Dec. 18. Nearly 50 cars, containing current and former students and family members, waited their turn to honk and hand LaCava cards, flowers, signs and gifts as staff members and LaCava’s family looked on.

Sara Lopez, pictured here with her husband Oscar, is retiring from BRES as its Building Site Supervisor.
Sara Lopez, pictured here with her husband Oscar, is retiring from Bird Rock Elementary School as its Building Site Supervisor.
(Courtesy)

Also retiring from BRES after 11 years is Building Site Supervisor Sara Lopez, who has worked for SDUSD for 25 years.

“I love La Jolla and have met and made friends that I am sure I will have forever,” Lopez said, noting she worked at La Jolla High School for nine years before moving to BRES. “I have loved working at BRES; the kids have been funny, smart and kind and I have enjoyed watching them grow.”

Lopez and her husband, who is also retiring from the district after 38 years, plan to enjoy their time off in Hemet, where they currently reside.

BRES Principal Andi Frost could not be reached for comment about LaCava and Lopez.

Allison Carpenter is retiring after 41 years teaching; the last 30 have been in kindergarten at La Jolla Elementary School.
Allison Carpenter is retiring after 41 years teaching; the last 30 have been in kindergarten at La Jolla Elementary School.
(Courtesy)

At LJES, Allison Carpenter is retiring after 41 years teaching; the last 30 have been at LJES in kindergarten. Citing the declining health of a family member, Carpenter said in an email to the LJES community “I need to retire. But I wanted to say how grateful I am for all of you who shared your beautiful children and families with [my husband] Hugh and I over the years.”

Carpenter, who has been around long enough to teach the children of some former students, said, “for people to share their adorable children with us and to have a job that I loved has truly been a blessing that I have never taken for granted. I am so grateful for the incredible education I got as a student in San Diego Unified School District, and then working with amazing educators, children, families, and the community is something I am thankful for every day of my life.”

LJES Principal Stephanie Hasselbrink said Carpenter “is a special, one-of-a kind person who will be sorely missed. I first met the infamous Ms. Allison when I was a fifth grade teacher at LJES. She approached me with the most genuine smile and the sweetest ‘Hello, gorgeous!’ greeting, and I immediately noticed her beautiful dress, high heeled shoes, and the flower tucked behind her ear - her signature look and daily ‘uniform’.”

Hasselbrink said Carpenter “was born to be a kindergarten teacher. She approaches each day with excitement and joy, and she approaches her students, families, and colleagues with love and kindness. Allison has a way of making everyone around her feel loved and valued.”

Carpenter “has a deep commitment to equity and justice,” Hasselbrink said, “ensuring that decisions are always made with children at the center. It’s hard to imagine LJES without her. She will certainly be missed, but she will always be carried in the hearts of our entire community.”

Carpenter even mentored fellow retiree LaCava while LaCava was a student teacher at LJES. She said Carpenter “has the biggest heart and is such a talented teacher. I learned so very much from her.”

Ali Murphy, whose two older children had Carpenter as a teacher, said “there is no teacher or person in the world like Ms. Allison. Her legacy of selflessness, unconditional love and enduring dedication to her craft will live on in the bright, happy hearts of all the families’ lives she’s transformed.”

LJES is currently taking submissions for a video tribute to Carpenter through Dec. 23. Please visit tribute.co/ms-allison1 for more information. ◆