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Around Pleasanton: Teacher bids adieu to school, columnist to readers

After a 31-year career, first-grade teacher Sara Walsh is retiring from Walnut Grove Elementary, the school where she started. In 1968, the year Walsh attended kindergarten, Walnut Grove was a brand-new Pleasanton school.
Fellow teachers Gail Frost and Marilyn Geweke Auser taught in those early years, and they remember waiting for the school to finish construction.
These Walnut Grove Elementary School educators have a combined total of 97 years’ teaching: Gail Frost, from left, Sara Walsh and Marilyn Auser. (Amy Moellering/for Bay Area News Group) 
“We taught double periods at Alisal Elementary to cover all the kids. At that time, there was a population explosion happening in Pleasanton,” said Frost, who taught first grade and was Walsh’s reading teacher.
“We were allowed to walk home for lunch in those days,” recalls Walsh. “I would watch ‘Bewitched’ on television while eating a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, and then I’d walk back to school for the afternoon.”
These three veteran teachers met with me recently to share their memories. All of them not only taught at Walnut Grove but also had their children attend there. Auser taught the longest, spending 34 of her 41 teaching years at the school; her legacy is extending to another generation now that her granddaughter, Ella Baker, is a student.
Frost’s career spanned a total of 25 years but never fully ended, as she’s been substitute teaching at Walnut Grove.
“I love the school’s friendly, neighborhood atmosphere; it was that way when I started, and it still feels that way when I walk into the school today,” she said.
Part of this friendly vibe is the fact that many teachers live in the neighborhood, a trend that has continued since the early years.
“My parents were friends with the teachers,” said Walsh, “and I currently have eight families in my classroom who live in my neighborhood.”
Although some things have stayed the same, much has changed. The three teachers reminisced on when safety wasn’t as much of a concern, and there wasn’t a fence around the school.
“Parents and dogs would come right up to the classroom door,” said Walsh. “I also remember that if the teacher needed to send a message to my parents, she would pin the note onto my shirt.”
Frost nodded in agreement, remembering the safety pins. As Walsh prepares for retirement, Frost and Auser assured her that one thing she won’t miss is the bells, signifying the tight time requirements that first grade teachers live by in running their classrooms.
Walsh agreed: “I won’t miss having to eat lunch at 11:25 everyday either!”
She said she will miss her colleagues and the teamwork aspect of teaching. She will also miss those golden moments when a light bulb ignites in a student as they learn something new.
“I love seeing how much first graders grow in one year,” said Walsh. “I’ll miss that!”
Thanks and farewell: In other goodbyes, this will be the last “Around Pleasanton” column. I took over this column from Jim Ott in 2014 and before that wrote “Inside Our Schools.” I will miss the joy I experience meeting people of our city and accepting the challenge of faithfully telling their wonderful stories. Thank you for reading and for the column ideas that you’ve shared with me over the years. Hope to see you around town!
Amy Moellering is a freelance writer. Contact her at ajmoellering@gmail.com.

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