Here at Kings River Life Magazine, we realize how important teachers and other school employees are to the lives of our children and the future of our communities as they shape the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, most of the best of them work long hours with little recognition or thanks. Our goal here is to take a moment to thank as many of these outstanding people as we can — the ones that make a difference.
From our “Exceeding Expectations” series;
profiles of those who go above and beyond:
Gail Hutchinson began teaching at Reedley High School (RHS) in January of 1971 and has been there ever since, teaching four levels of both German and French. Though she and her husband, David, who also taught at RHS for 27 years, officially retired in 2009, Gail continues to teach some there this year. “I began teaching at RHS when Linda Buxman began maternity leave mid-year and continued when she decided to stay at home to raise her wonderful children.”
Born in Detroit, Michigan Gail moved with her family to Fresno while she was still in high school. She went on to attend CSU, Fresno and Université d’Aix in Marseille, France. From early on in life, Gail wanted to be a teacher. She was fascinated by her maternal grandfather’s British accent and her paternal grandparents’ Italian-speaking home. “When I began learning French at age 10, I knew immediately that I wanted to bring the excitement of other languages and cultures to my prospective students. It’s been a wonderful journey.”
Her day has always begun early, and found her at school until late in the evening. Teaching four different levels of two languages means extensive preparation at home to allow in-school time to be spent on co-curricular activities. “Teachers are on stage every minute of the day. I have always spent lunchtime on club meetings, letters of recommendation, and working with students individually. Fortunately, our children have been supportive of our work ethic and demonstrate that same attitude in their adult lives, making our teaching experiences rewarding at every level.”
Gail’s many extra duties through the years have included being Department Chairman for more than thirty-five years, mentor teacher and BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) provider, faculty sponsor for French Club and German Club for 42 years, and the assistant Academic Decathlon coach for her husband for 20 years. She has also taught French, German, and Italian in KCUSD GATE Summer School for many years. “I truly enjoy working with my students and maintaining contact with them through college and adulthood. Every student has been a gift. I especially cherish working now with the children of my former students. Reedley is a wonderful place, and the students of RHS are unsurpassed.”
“I’ve never met a teacher who taught so much to her students while maintaining such strict order in the classroom; or who whacked her ruler on the desk so frequently while somehow making us love her,” said former RHS student Carolyn Eastman, now a professor at the University of Texas, Austin. “She groaned and rolled her eyes when we performed our dialogues (badly) or tried to sing Christmas carols in French. She also let us know she was never really mad at us.
“I remember a moment in my senior year when I was trying to make a hard decision that felt overwhelmingly complicated, and I ran it by her in a cursory way. She looked me in the eye, gently summed up the clearest possible assessment of my character and inclinations, and said, ‘I think the answer’s clear, Caroline.’ She’s my model as I teach students now, working to show them that they matter.”
“Frau Hutchinson taught my two children when they attended Reedley High School,” said Ron Hudson, Deputy Superintendent, Kings Canyon Unified School District. “Frau was without a doubt in the top 1% of all-time teachers. Her desire and ability to communicate with all students was unmatched. Her level of drive for students to ‘get-it’ was incredible. She could combine the frustration that comes with teaching with a love for her students that translated to production and results. What a great lady! “
“She really inspired me to love and learn French,” shared another former student, Jamie Ryan who graduated in 2007. “Her teaching techniques and passion for the language really showed and encouraged me to have a passion for it.”
The hardest part of teaching for Gail has been watching American education change focus. She believes that schools need to return to the certainty that students benefit most when teachers are allowed to mentor students every minute of the school day and to spend all of their efforts helping students become international and competent citizens while preparing for college and adult life. “Students need teachers to guide them through the learning process at every level. Unfortunately, with the advent of No Child Left Behind, precious teacher-student time and financial resources have been and continue to be diverted to irrelevant and non-beneficial testing, costing students important exposure to core and elective subjects and to other vital learning experiences.”
“She put up with a lot from us, but took it all in stride, and ALWAYS encouraged us,” said former student Ted Harder. “I don’t know a student who was ever really on her bad side, no matter how bad they were. She was incredibly gracious, sometimes to a fault. I didn’t care much for learning German, but I stayed in that class for four years simply because I loved Frau.”
Crystal Rakes, a senior at RHS, was in Gail’s French class for three years. “Frau is an amazing teacher who really made an impact on my life. She teaches more than just language skills, and her classes were always memorable.”
Gail has loved the time she and David have been able to share with all the students over the years, not only in class but outside of class. “We have enjoyed taking students to Europe, attending college graduations and weddings, accompanying students to Central Valley Language Fairs, taking students on more than fifty college visitation trips, and participating as coaches in 20 Academic Decathlon competitions. Although teaching has become more difficult each year as the focus on education and co-curricular activities has decreased, teaching is still the best job in the world and has been a constant joy.”