I could write this post for months and never say everything that I want. Perhaps the best way I can get my words around my emotions is to say that sometimes I believe in God. I mean, really believe in God. When my life is going sideways and my dreams are shattered, sometimes God seems to intervene. Sometimes God seems to show me a light, pick me up, and point me in a new direction. In those times, I really believe. It does not happen often.
Gary and Caroline Yee have helped me believe in the power of community and public education many times when I am prepared to give up my faith. They both seem to step up at the right time. This week it happened again when Gary invited me to return to Lincoln Elementary for the dedication of the Caroline Yee Memorial Classroom Building mosaic art project. Caroline died on February 21, 2o13, but Gary and Caroline are still bringing people together.
The beautiful new building stands where old portables once sat. I taught in an old portable twelve years ago. My students were so wonderful that I did not realize my old portable lacked anything until I saw the new building. It is bright and welcoming. It reflects Lincoln’s learning environment better than an old smelly portable.
Even though I only worked at Lincoln for about one year, I returned for several years once Caroline Yee became principal. Caroline knew that I needed the educational leader to welcome me back into the school. I visited old friends and reconnected with my garden. (My portable might be gone, but some of my plants remain.) I would leave my little daughter with one of the greatest school secretaries in the history of public education and I would work in the garden. Sometimes I would let my daughter play in the playground and I would visit with Song Le who retires this week after more than 30 years at Lincoln.
Juan Lopez is the primary mosaic artist. One last mosaic was unveiled Tuesday. The plaque includes the phrase, “Have fun and learn a lot.” This might sound simplistic, but having fun is the best way to learn. Having fun means “being engaged.” We want our students to engage with the material. We want students to enjoy learning. We want learning to be fun.
Some people look at a school and see a place for a smelly portable. Other people see smelly portables and see an opportunity to create engaging learning environments. Gary and Caroline quietly made Oakland better, and even though Caroline is not by his side, she is still helping him build community.
The last time I saw Caroline, I was with my daughter Emily at a “state of the district” event when Gary was still a school board member. (Now he is Acting Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.) My daughter photographed Caroline on January 26, 2013. This morning while I was walking my children to an OUSD school that Gary and Caroline have supported, I asked my daughter if I could post the photo. Of course, my daughter agreed. She still remembers Caroline.
To see more photos from the event this week, visit this link. Please share this post so that others can see what is possible.
NOTE: On June 13th, I edited this post slightly for grammar. I also included the link to the entire photo gallery. Was omitting the photo gallery a minor mistake? Not sure. It has been added a third time here.