July 3, 2008

La Verne Teacher Ready to Enjoy Retirement

By Imani Tate

Staff Writer

When Annette Harden entered La Verne College, she majored in sociology and intended to become a sociologist.

After spending a couple of years in town, a growing love for the city of La Verne and a shifting desire to teach, rather than study, prompted Harden to change career options and become a teacher.

After 33 years of service to children, Harden officially retired Monday and "passes the baton to a new generation of educators," said La Verne Heights Elementary School Principal Gary Temkin.

She helped create the standard of excellence at one of the Inland Valley's oldest elementary schools and created special connections with students, Temkin continued.

"I could just go on and on about Annette," the administrator said. "She is a professional in every true sense of the word and is extremely student-centered. Teaching for Annette has been a passion. She's always here early and leaves late."

It is not unusual for visitors to Harden's classroom to find her in costume, re-creating book characters she talks about during reading sessions with her students, Temkin said. If students need afterschool tutoring, she volunteers.

"She's part of a core group of teachers who've created something special at La Verne Heights Elementary," Temkin said.

Harden was among several Bonita Unified School District teachers who retired this year.

Born in San Gabriel and raised in Alhambra, she was the middle girl of Mina and Gerald Good's three daughters. The draftsman and his homemaker wife stressed education and their daughters bought into their parents' ideas.

The eldest, Christine Fleischmann, taught at La Verne Heights School, worked in a Wichita library and retired to Duluth, Minn. The youngest, Gretchen Good of Colfax, Iowa, serves as Midwest finance director of Teen Challenge.

Professional service is a habit Annette also shares with husband Dan, a retired Bonita High School teacher and former La Verne City Council member, and sons Navy Lt. j.g. Shawn Harden and La Verne police Cpl. Devon Harden.

Harden changed her mind about what she wanted to do and where she wanted to do it before finishing her undergraduate studies. She was hooked on La Verne, "a small, quaint town that was then mostly orange groves with a few housing tracts and lots of friendly people."

She resolved to stay in La Verne.

"I never thought about teaching in a big city school after I did my student teaching at La Verne Heights with master teacher Harriet Scully," Harden recalled. "She was an excellent role model for everyone, including her own children who became teachers, too.

"I learned patience from Mrs. Scully, to smile warmly so students know you care about them, to firmly discipline and to give hugs so they know you love them," she continued.

"She said every child needs a hug three times a day: once in the morning from mom, once from your teacher and once again in the evening when you go home."

She served as a substitute teacher in San Dimas and La Verne schools in 1971 and 1972. When a hiring freeze was imposed, she worked for J.C. Penney in Montclair until it lifted in 1974. She taught for one quarter at Gladstone Elementary School in San Dimas before she was hired to teach at La Verne Heights. She spent 33 years at the same school.

When she entered education, she said teachers were generally more respected by both students and parents.

"When you said something to students, they did it because what the teacher said was law," Harden recalled. "Also, parents would come to me and say, 'Can you tell Johnny not to do his homework in front of the TV?' If I said, 'Why can't you tell Johnny?' Parents would say, 'He'll listen to you.' "

"Teachers at this school have been fortunate because parents are actively involved with their children, teachers and school staff, and we have a very strong PTA," she said. "We haven't faced many of the problems other schools face."

Unfortunately, off-campus changes in education have affected students and initiated standards "that have pushed education down a grade," Harden said.

The over-emphasis on tests has threatened teachers' ability to give students' practical and academic applications, she said. It's also taken some of the fun out of being in school.

"Even in kindergarten where kids used to dress up, play store and gain social skills, there are now standards for reading and math. There's more pressure. The testing is just too much," she said.

"A child takes a test for one day. It's reported that this one day is what the child is all about, and that's not true.

"Children have to be well-rounded, social and cooperative. You don't get that from a test. Teachers are there to meet the needs of students, intervene when they're struggling and help them get past the obstacles," Harden said, describing dedicated teachers. "We want them to be successful. We don't want them to lose their love of learning."

Harden's commitment to classroom charges goes beyond her waking hours.

"Sometimes at night, she'll call out a child's name in her teacher's voice," said her husband, laughing. "You'd think she'd be dreaming about her loving husband, but she's dreaming about her students."

(c) 2008 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.