Gustine Elementary School teacher Kathy Silva is retiring after 20 years of service.

GUSTINE - Kathy Silva’s path through life took her back to school in her mid-30s to pursue a long-standing goal of becoming a teacher.

She achieved that goal, and has since spent 20 years teaching at Gustine Elementary.

Now, retirement awaits Silva as the school year winds down to a close and she prepares to usher in a new chapter in her life.

Silva got her start in education in a pre-school day care setting, she explained, but felt she could have a greater impact if she worked in a formal elementary environment.

Silva worked as an instructional aide at Bonita School in Crows Landing before deciding at age 36 to go to college to become a teacher.

“I started from zero,” she related. “It was tough, but I felt like I needed to pave a way (for her family) and

for myself.”

She was hired as a first-grade teacher, moved to third grade, was a reading intervention teacher for a year and then went back to third grade.

The third grade, she noted, is a time when students are expected to solidify a number of academic skills and brings a focus on cooperative learning, hands-on projects and collaboration.

“In kinder through second students are learning the basic foundational skills of reading,” she pointed out. “When they get to third grade, they are expected to read to learn. They are independent, and they have to do the work.”

Silva has seen numerous changes in two decades.

Technology has become ingrained in the classroom, class sizes are larger, and expectations of students are higher at a younger age.

“You have a whole spectrum of students,” she reflected. “There is just so much more to deal with. Social realms have changed.”

Silva has tried to be a positive influence on her students beyond the academic realm.

“I have tried to instill a sense of compassion and empathy,” she commented. “I want them to know that they are part of something bigger than themselves. I think it is important that they know that.”

Her years in the classroom have been richly rewarding, Silva reflected.

“Every day is something different. Even though it is the same kids throughout the year, every day there is something new from them,” she explained. “It keeps you on your toes. I can’t say there has been one day that has been boring for me. I will miss it.”