Esther Garza was born in San Juan, Texas, to parents of migrant workers who came to the Powell area to work in the beet fields. She was the third of 10 children. Esther attended school in Powell and Greybull, then completed her senior year at Lovell High School during which time she was married.
After graduation she worked at the Rose Bowl Café as a carhop. Francis Hecker, Lovell Elementary principal at that time, would go to the café in the afternoon for a pop. He approached her one day inquiring if she could speak Spanish. She replied that she did, and he offered her a job at the school right there. That began a 47-year career working in the school system.
Garza originally worked as an aide with the migrant school in the spring of 1973, and in the fall she was hired for the regular school year. At that time the education system was employing a new approach to teaching called open classrooms. Classes were arranged into open pods with several in each area.
“I worked in the green pod as a teacher’s aide for Marilyn Revelle, Kathy Harrison, Dola Farnes and Marilyn NeVille. I don’t know how they did it with all their classes in one open area,” Garza said.
Over the years she worked as a paraprofessional for multiple teachers in different class levels. She worked in Title 1 reading with Judy Ferren, Pat Crumrine, Matt Withem and Cliff Revelle; with Bob Korell in Title 1 math; and with Patty Despain in kindergarten.
“I loved that I worked in many different assignments, because it gave me an opportunity to grow in all of those different areas,” she said.
As technology developed, Garza was asked by Principal Cheri Hoffman to help enter data in the office. At first she went back and forth, spending part of the day in the office and part in the classroom. Part of her office responsibilities included helping the school nurse.
“Ellen Price was the first school nurse I worked for,” she said. “Mrs. Price had a project where she helped to provide supplies for needy children. I helped her with that project. Other school nurses were JoAnn Franckowiak, Jody McClure, Kathy Gifford and Jane Keil. The last 20 years I’ve been assisting Meredith Despain.”
Garza’s other office work, along with medical data entry, included entering student demographic information, daily attendance and lunch numbers.
After several years working in the office a proposal was made to the board, and Garza was officially given the title of secretary. She remained in that position throughout the remainder of her career. At that time Nancy Robison worked in the office with her along with Jane Bushnell, who was the principal.
“I enjoyed the office work and interacting with the children the most. In the office I was still available for the students and was able to visit with parents, teachers and staff. Getting to visit with everyone was what I enjoyed. The staff and teachers are such good people. I am very protective of my staff because I know how early they come to work and how late many of them stay to be prepared for their students. I know how hard they work. The teachers and all the staff are the best,” Garza emphasized.
Throughout her career she worked with six principals starting with Hecker and including Cliff Revelle, Don Burbank, Hoffman, Bushnell and most recently Deanne Martineau.
The process the children go through to receive an education and then return to give back to the community is what Garza said she finds most rewarding.
“I love seeing children graduate, go out in the world and then come back to give to the community,” she said. “They’re our homegrown children. That’s the kind of thing I like to see. Often, I think, ‘We did it right,’ and I had a part in that.”
So many people Garza worked with are gone now, she said, remembering the time she worked with Norma Cutler, Juanita Martinez and others. Spending time together with them and others created fond memories of her career.
“The camaraderie was always good, the times we sat together and shared,” she said. “You don’t stay in a job as long as I did if you don’t love it. I love my staff and seeing children be successful, watching them become accomplished professionals as adults.
“When I was a child, I had school staff that was caring and supportive. I was never afraid to ask a teacher for help. Education gave me so much. I knew this was where I needed to be, helping as I was helped and being a part of that kind of staff,” Garza said.
Garza’s future plans involve doing what she has always enjoyed doing, visiting and taking care of people.
“Now that I won’t have to work around a schedule I can interact more with people,” she said. “I love taking meals to the homebound as well as sitting and talking with them. I am anxious for the care center to reopen so I can see those folks again. I’ve missed them.
“I look forward to more bike rides with my friend Judy Wolvington. I can help take care of my mom and give my sister, who lives with her, a break sometimes. One of my good friends Ilda Garcia and I are connected through extended family, so we plan to do more traveling to see them since Ilda is retiring, also. However, I am mostly looking forward to fishing and spending time with my children and grandchildren, the joy of my life.”
Garza shared one final thought concerning her 47 years, saying, “It was a very rewarding career. There is longevity among the teachers and staff at Lovell Elementary. That says a lot, I think, and shows why there is such success. I have the utmost respect for them.”
BY TERESSA ENNIS