As the final few minutes ticked down on Judi Healey’s 29-year teaching career last Thursday, June 1, she offered up a unique toast for each of her 6th-graders, whose Palm Crest Elementary School careers also were winding down.
It might have been their last day in class with Healey, 72, but her impact on each will outlast that final bell: For one, she had her students write letters to themselves and seal them in self-addressed envelopes, which she plans to stamp and send to their homes to be opened later this summer.
“Right before they start 7th grade, when they’re feeling insecure, I want a note to remind themselves that they are good at whatever strengths they have, so they don’t feel insecure when they walk into LCHS,” said Healey, whose students will remember never being bored in her class — and that she climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this school year!
And maybe they’ll also remember those toasts — punctuated by bubbles blown by their peers — as they take that next big step onto the LCHS 7/8 campus in August.
“May you become just a little bolder, just a little more trusting of yourself and your goodness!” Healey told one girl.
“Here is a toast to vibrant, curious, kind and helpful Mark,” she said to a boy.
And it continued:
“May you continue to sparkle!”
“You are strong!”
“An impeccible gentleman!”
“Will he become a renowned scientist or comic?”
Those students had plenty to say about Healey, as well.
Kamille Marchen said “she was a really fun teacher” and thought it was great when Healey brought her bike to school. (The doughnuts she brought were pretty good, too, she said.)
Nicholas Tomlinson liked “how our class wasn’t boring,” due to all of the hands-on activities he and his classmates got to do.
There was quilt-making, totem pole-building, lively lessons about Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece and Rome.
“And it was really cool to know that my 6th-grade teacher climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!” Julia Krider said. “It was really inspiring, because even though this is her last year teaching, she still does really amazing things.”
Healey said she doesn’t plan to let up. A newspaper writer before she became a teacher, she intends to continue contributing to the local “La Cañada Flintridge Neighbors” magazine. She also wants to focus on the writing group she’s a part of, and perhaps start another (she’s seeking members, she said.)
Healey started at Paradise Canyon Elementary before moving to the high school, where for five years she directed the drama program and taught 9th grade before she took a leave to move with her husband to Florida.
When she returned, she had a request: Windows.
And then she was placed in a 6th-grade classroom — with windows — at Palm Crest Elementary, where she’s been since.
“Sixth grade is pretty much perfect for me,” said Healey, who embraced Chromebook collaboration and apps such as Story Wars in the past few years. “I get their sense of humor and they’re old enough to be critical thinkers, they’re just developmentally fun to be around.”
And so while her last batch of students thought about their letters to themselves, post-toasts and tacos, Healey paused to consider what advice she might give to younger teachers, including possibly her daughter, Kathryn, a teacher at EARTHS Magnet School in the Conejo Valley School District.
“The joy of teaching comes from living the moment,” said Healey, whose students were each responsible for reporting on and monitoring a different country this school year. “The fun of it is connecting either what’s going on in the world or what’s going on in their lives. That always makes it fresh, always makes it fun.”
The district also will say goodbye to eight other retirees: Paradise Canyon Elementary’s P.E. teacher Curt Chase, special education teacher Sharon Sherman and kindergarten teacher Linda Posod; PCR’s 1st-grade teacher Susanne Horne and counselor Linda Matchie; LCHS special education teacher Ray Pancost; LCHS 7/8 science teacher Mike Gilliland; and Elaine Leibl, a special education educator based at the district office.