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Teachers appreciate show of community support

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Teachers appreciate show of community support

Passing motorists honk in support of teachers during Friday's "Pink Friday"rally at the intersection of Louise Avenue and Main Street.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED March 14, 2009 6:09 a.m.
The sound along Manteca’s busiest intersection Friday afternoon was deafening – it’s seldom quiet with thousands of cars and trucks rushing by on a daily basis.

But on this Friday, the noise ringing through the junction of Louise Avenue and Main Street was coming not from the high speed buzzing of glass and steel, but the chants of Manteca Unified School District teachers – all clad in pink – gathering to oppose the cuts behind handed down to schools across the state.

Signs reminding passers-by to support our future – the children of today – were prevalent on all four corners of the busy thoroughfare. With pink shirts everywhere serving as a reminder to the slips just distributed to teachers in order to make the March 15 deadline for issuing such notices, the rally hit close to home to some Manteca Unified educators that will now have to wait until May to see if they’ll still have a job.

“I got my notice last Wednesday,” said 24-year-old 6th grade Joshua Cowell teacher Bridgette Sheldon. “I knew that it was coming, but it didn’t make it any easier when you actually have it in your hand.”

Before the California budget crisis started to foreshadow big problems for public education and the funding necessary to continue offering the level of instruction necessary for success, Sheldon was getting ready to finish her second year at Joshua Cowell and move comfortably into the world of tenured teaching.

Now the Stanislaus State grad will continue to play the waiting game to see if she’ll be spared.

And she definitely isn’t alone.

Joshua Cowell first grade teacher Michelle Anthony was also prowling the mob along Louise Avenue after learning that she too might end up having to find work outside of Manteca Unified despite having three years of experience within the district – and four overall.

The thought of losing her job was troubling enough, but Anthony was more concerned about not being able to be around the students that she’s built a strong bond with over her tenure at Joshua Cowell.

“I love coming in and seeing the smiling faces, and the look in their eyes when they’ve accomplished something,” she said. “The kids are really what make it all worthwhile – you spend countless hours doing everything you can to make life better for them, and that’s something I don’t want to lose.”

While the hundreds of motorists that passed by blared their horns in a show of solidarity, Manteca Educators Association President Ken Johnson opted for the elevated platform of Mark Hathaway’s personal fire engine while waving a pink flag.

Some of those who passed by had their own pink flags flying out the window as they cruised by.

“This is an incredible showing of support from the community to show how much they care about their teachers,” Johnson said. “I think that this is a great way to raise awareness because people out there don’t want to see their children’s teachers go away.

“We’re facing the biggest cut ever in the California’s history with $11.6 billion being taken from education, and that’s like cutting $50,000 from each classroom, firing 160,000 teachers, or shutting down every school for 40 days. It’s just not acceptable.”

And even teachers that are pretty much immune from having their positions cut made sure that the turned out to show support for those who share the same passion for education.

With almost two decades of instructing on his resume, Manteca High social studies teacher John Gibson took post on the corner near the old Long John Silver’s and watched the crowds as they navigated the crosswalks and waved to those passing by.

The cuts are hitting a little close to home for Gibson – who had three of his fellow social studies teachers receive notices this week – and he wanted to do everything he could to show support.

“Looking around and seeing so many people coming together – that unity – really shows a lot of respect between the teachers in this district,” he said. “Most of us wish we didn’t have to be here, but for this turnout, it’s really great.”

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