Let me tell you about the dear, sweet, kind, loving Evelyn I knew.
I first met her as a substitute at Harbor City Elementary when I had been teaching only about a year. We were over in our numbers after several months into the year and she agreed to take a 1-2 combo bilingual class. That was enough to begin with, but imagine what kind of class she got. Every teacher handpicked the students that would make up her class. She got every behaviorally challenged student that existed at our school! We had no extra classrooms, so we converted the library into a classroom. Mind you, the books weren’t moved, just rearranged and stacked. So here she was with the classroom from hell. But every day she came to work with that beautiful smile on her face and faced the day and her challenge with the positive attitude we all knew. That class would have discouraged anyone else, but not Evelyn. We became fast friends. I felt fortunate to know someone so positive.
I wanted to tell you a little bit about her family from my perspective. One Christmas season, I remember going over to her house to visit. Jenny and Geoff were still young. She showed me her new furnishings in the family room, and then we went to look at something new in one of the children’s bedrooms, and then we went to the living room to look at some pictures. The amazing thing was that everywhere we went, Jenny, Geoff and Steve came too. I felt so welcomed and at home. I always felt that way in their home, like part of the family. All of her family, her brothers, nieces, in-laws, her immediate family are all this way, warm and friendly. She was so rich in her family. It was easy to see the love that overflowed in her family, from her husband who was also her soul mate, to her two beautiful children and her granddaughters. She was so proud of them all.
Evelyn was so generous and giving. One time, my car died. She lent me her extra car! She wasn’t using a dishwasher she had stored in her garage. She gave it to me because I didn’t have one. I used that dishwasher for many years until we moved into our present house and then my mom used it after that. She was always giving me little things, for no reason at all, just because. But more than material gifts, she gave me something priceless. She gave me inspiration to believe in myself and what I could do. Very early on, she encouraged me to do things I probably wouldn’t have done without her motivation. We wrote grants together for the first Apple computers in our school. She showed me how to use a database program to track our bilingual students. (We shared the job of bilingual coordinator.) This was before computers were being used for very many purposes in the district. She persuaded me to present our methods of bilingual instruction at a district meeting. That was really scary for me, but with her help, I got through it. When I first started at San Miguel, she was determined to get e-rate funding to network the school. It was a monumental task that only 12 schools in the district managed to accomplish that year. We almost didn’t. Almost every week, I would go into her office and tell her it couldn’t be done. She would basically say “nonsense”, would make a few phone calls and we would be back on track again. She even got her very talented son-in-law to draw up our networking plans that remain solid to this day. You can thank Evelyn for our very high tech network at this school. That was the way she was. She had vision for you too. She wanted laptops for every teacher at this school. It was her vision for you. When you use those laptops, think of Evelyn. That’s why you have them. More importantly, she had a vision for students. She wanted every student to succeed in a climate conducive to higher order thinking skills and creative learning environments. When I walked into this school for the very first time, I was amazed by the sense of community she had helped to foster here. You had meetings that everyone participated in. There was laughter and controversy, but moreover, there was a sense of professionalism and pride to be a member of San Miguel’s staff. I will never forget that.
So, I would like us to dedicate this tree to you, Evelyn, my friend, my hero. You are truly the wind beneath my wings. When it flowers in August, your birthday, may we be reminded of your beautiful smile, your kind and generous spirit, and the force that brought us all together then and now.