by Lorie Lewis Ham
From time to time we profile some of the Valley teachers that are making a difference in the lives of their students. This week we are profiling Reedley High School teacher Janette McFarlane.
Janette is a Specialized Academic Instructor and RHS Special Education Department Chair. While at RHS, she has supported students in the areas of Math, English, Science, and Technology. “I co-teach with Dion Tate, Lee Hull, and Tyler Ruiz. I am teaching in four different classrooms daily. I collaborate on a regular basis with the teachers I co-teach with and have learned so much from them, appreciating their instructional techniques. I am so fortunate to work with great people.”
She has also subbed at summer school and adult school, and supports two new teachers on campus through the Beginning Teacher Support and Assistance Program.
Born in Hanford, Janette first fell in love with teaching when she volunteered at Holland Elementary in Fresno helping the K-2 Severely Disabled classroom. “I started as a Teacher’s Aide at the Diagnostic School in Fresno where I worked in both the classroom and residential facility.”
From there, she substituted as an aide for Fresno Unified and a teacher at Fresno Unified and Kings County Schools. During her 25 years of teaching, she has worked all over the Valley in various positions.
Janette is a first generation American–her mother was born on the island of Pico, Azores, in Portugal and moved to America when she was 18 after her family lost everything due to an earthquake and volcanic eruption. Here she married Janette’s dad. At home as a child Janette’s dad insisted they speak Portuguese at home but English outside the home.
“I started kindergarten a year later due to not knowing English well and watched Sesame Street and Romper Room to learn English.”
Her mother learned English too. Janette’s mother’s education in Portugal was only up until around nine years old, and her father had dropped out of high school his freshman year to help support the family. “His employers offered him the opportunity to earn his GED which he did,” said Janette. “After my Dad passed away, she (her mother) earned her high school diploma from Hanford Adult Education at the age of 50 (one of the proudest moments in my life). Because becoming educated in my family was worked for so much, there is a deepened sense of appreciation, pride and accomplishment.”
Growing up on a ranch, Janette feels she gained a great sense of responsibility at a young age. “We had chores; animals to feed, walnuts to pick during the season, and irrigating trees and pasture. Hard work and to take pride in your work was valued.”
As a teenager, and while working her way through school, she had many food related jobs, including working several years at Billy Boy’s Donut Shop. She’s also cleaned houses, baby sat, worked at a tanning booth, and had various on campus jobs at Fresno State.
At one point she worked at a group home for developmentally disabled adults who were just released from Porterville State Hospital. “It was a challenging job because we had to teach them social skills, like sitting down at a dinner table, using utensils and not hitting people. At times, I would come home with bite marks and bloody noses as a result, but thankfully didn’t have broken bones like some employees working at the facility. My past work experiences have taught me to be compassionate, patient and appreciative of who and where I am today.”
Janette was working as a Severely Disabled Teacher for Fresno County Office of Education before coming to RHS 18 years ago. At that time, Fresno Unified had decided to meet the needs of the severely disabled students within the Fresno Unified boundaries which meant 80% of their students were leaving. Janette attended a job fair at Fresno State and interviewed with Tanya Goosev for the position at RHS. “I was invited back for a second interview with then RHS Principal Juan Garza and finally met with the late Carl Campbell and was hired.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with Janette McFarlane for the past eight years,” said Sheila Sanchez, a Special Education/Specialized Academic Instructor at RHS. “She is without a doubt one of the most dedicated and hardworking teachers I have had the opportunity to work with over my last 16 years in education. With her goal oriented drive, she is not afraid to think outside the box in providing the best possible setting and education for our students. Janette has a warm, caring and compassionate heart which shines in all she does. ”
What Janette likes best about her job is supporting people and watching positive things happen in their lives as a result. Whether it’s a student who finally understands a concept and gains a sense of confidence, or a staff member who she’s supported to become better at what they do to teach and support kids. “It feels good to see good things happen to good people.”
“I have Mrs. McFarlane for my third period Strategic Intervention, a math support class this year,” shared RHS student Stephanie Pasillas. “She is a great teacher and she helps students out a lot. She has taught me so much this year I wouldn’t have made it without her help.”
“Mrs. McFarlane is a patient and thoughtful instructor who will go to whatever lengths necessary to help a student in need of assistance,” said James Hull, a former RHS student. “I knew I could count on Mrs. McFarlane to be there for me during her lunch breaks to help me understand how to set up and solve math problems. She also helped me to grow socially. Much of my success at Fresno State has been because of her efforts to help me grow.”
James’ father Lee works with Janette and is a math teacher at RHS. “She is perhaps the most compassionate, caring and professional educator I’ve ever worked with.”
Janette’s typical work day often sees her up at 3:30-4 in the morning working on paperwork and she usually stays late to get things done as well. “My paperwork can consume me at times. I place high standards for myself and am hardest on myself, feeling that I have to operate above proficiency in most of what I do.”
Most of Janette’s rare spare time is spent with her family. She has been married to Tom McFarlane for 22 years and they have two sons-Sean Paul who is 16, and Noah Alan who is six. Both of her sons are very active in academics, clubs and sports and she’s always right there cheering them on and being involved. “They are my pride and joy. God blessed me with them and my family.”
Her other hobbies include being very involved in her church, swimming, cooking, baking, gardening, and home improvement. She loves the outdoors and is always on the move and multi-tasking.
Janette can’t imagine ever quitting teaching. “I see myself always wanting to learn and share with others what I’ve learned. Teaching and learning will always be a part of my life. I will always see myself as an Educator. I will eventually retire, but I see myself to continue in another role (working or volunteering at a Nursery, Craft Store, etc.,.) teaching others.”
Editor’s note: After talking with Janette I learned that the role of the special ed. teacher has changed a great deal where they are able to help all students who need support, not only those who qualify for services. So now she gets to help a large number of regular ed. students become successful learners as well. If you would like to know more feel free to ask in a comment below and I’m sure Janette would be happy to share.
What a wonderful article! I had no idea about your background even though I worked with you at RHS a few years back. Truly an amazing story. And, I am in total agreement with what the article says regarding your work ethic and compassion for the students because I witnessed it first hand. You are an exceptional employee and co-worker and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work with you!
I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the article. Many thanks to Lorie for capturing my story and sharing it with others. Thank you so much, Gail, for the compliments and working with me years ago. I have been very blessed to have worked with wonderful people in the district like you and I am able to do my job because of their support and dedication for helping students be successful.