by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at KRL we like to shine the spotlight on those in education who go above and beyond, and it seemed appropriate that our last profile of the school year be of long time English teacher Elizabeth Hardcastle. It also seemed fitting for our anniversary issue, since our first ever teacher profile was of another RHS English teacher, Janet Adams.
Elizabeth, or Betsy as she is known by many, was born and raised in Texas and moved to Reedley in 1973 after graduating college. She began subbing for Kings Canyon Unified School District in 1978 and was hired full-time in the fall of 1983. “I needed a job that allowed me to spend time with my children during their days off. I had a teaching certificate from Texas and had always considered myself a teacher even when I wasn’t getting paid for it.”
After spending one year teaching at Citrus Middle School, she began working at Reedley High. She started off teaching freshman English. In 1987, she began teaching 9E, an accelerated class, and started their AP Humanities class, which has since morphed into AP English Literature. “In addition, I have taught 10th and 11th grade English, and AP Language (11th) which was an honors American Literature class at the time I taught it.”
Her typical work day starts when the first bell is ringing. “I get my classes started, dash out for break, come back, teach something else (or the same thing when I’m lucky), answer the phone if I have to, field questions about everything one could possibly imagine, keep paperwork and assignments straight, change discs, make copies, pass out papers, pass back papers, read, write, think, wonder, enjoy.
“Once in awhile I do this from a sitting position, but that generally happens only with seniors. We do laugh quite a bit in my classes, but sometimes we don’t. Once the students leave, I plan for the next day, grade papers, input grades, check attendance, answer e-mails if there is an answer, report to the principal, attend meetings, leave about five or later, go home, cook dinner, grade papers, and then my work day ends.”
“I have served as Betsy’s Principal for five years,” said RHS principal Rodney Cisneros. “Betsy has high expectations of her students and she sends them off prepared for the next level. Through my relationship with Betsy, I have learned much about what it takes to be an instructional leader.”
“Betsy is remarkable in her level of involvement in all aspects of the classroom and campus life,” shared Janet Adams. “She has such an impact that many students are in communication years after graduating.”
“I headed into Mrs. Hardcastle’s AP English for the first time for the fall semester of my senior year of high school, and I was terrified,” said former RHS student Natalie Bachicha. “Throughout my previous years, I had heard stories about the legendary difficulty that awaited me. Five years later, I can say that such warnings were not unwarranted, but I wish I had also been told just how well the class would prepare me for college.
“What’s more, I wish I had been told just how important a role model Mrs. Hardcastle would prove to be. While I was already inclined toward literary studies, Mrs. Hardcastle’s example cemented my conviction to pursue English at the college level, and now at the postgraduate. Aside from her academic influence, I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to know her outside of the classroom and I can say without exaggeration or doubt, that she is one of my favorite fixtures of the Reedley community.”
What Betsy loves best about her job are Mondays, because they are so full of possibilities. Also, her students and the challenges of work. “I really do like to work and to learn. This job gives me ample opportunities for both.”
The hardest parts about her job are deadlines and giving students grades. “I’d like to be Socrates and just teach.”
“Mrs. Hardcastle is a really great instructor,” shared Kailey Luther, another former RHS student. “I think the extra push she gives each of her students to begin taking responsibility for their studies is working because it helped me get things together for school. I remember her when I think about the reasons why I want to teach now.”
“Mrs. Hardcastle is the most unpredictable woman ever,” said current RHS senior D.J. Reimer. “She can recite Shakespeare like no one else and her favorite TV show is SpongeBob….such a lovable combination.”
Betsy’s rare free time is spent with family, she is an avid reader, and sometimes enjoys mindless TV and movies. Though her three sons are all grown with families of their own, they live close enough for her to see them on a regular basis. All three graduated from Reedley High School.
She loves teaching and finds every school year special, filled with special stories and memories–far too many for her to pick just one to share. Betsy plans to continue teaching as long as she feels she has something worth offering students. “If my health should fail, out I go.”