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Stepping down after 37 years of teaching
Ruth Kelley, left, stands with Ruthanne Bassett at the retirement send-off. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Ruth Kelley welcomed current and former students along with many past colleagues at Friday’s send-off bash at the Joshua Cowell School cafeteria.

After 37 years in teaching – all at Manteca Unified – she’s calling it quits.

“It was just my time,” said Kelley of her decision to finally retire.

She taught a combination kindergarten / first-grade class this past year.

Ruth Kelley started as kindergarten teacher at Lathrop School in 1974.

“We didn’t have a curriculum for kindergarten back then,” she recalled. “The teachers had to create it.

“There were no report cards (for kindergarteners).”

That’s a far cry from today. Kelley, in recent years, also had to deal with larger classroom sizes with the district making a cost-cutting move by doing away with 20-to-1 ratio students to teacher better known as class-sized reduction.

Still, she’s beloved by her students.

“The times may have changed but children are still the same,” Kelley said.

Her sister, Brenda Valdes, friends, and family members, including Kelley’s daughter, Heidi, helped put together the retirement / open house event.

“She really wanted to see her former students,” said Heidi Kelley, who managed to gather together photos of her mother’s classes from over the years.

Ruth Kelley spent her last two years at Joshua Cowell. Before that, she was at Neil Hafley for 26, Sequoia for 10 and Lathrop School for four.

Friends and colleagues from those schools along with her three children and three grandchildren were scheduled to join in the celebration consisting of a power-point slide show, desserts, and refreshments.

“We did it everything in rainbow,” Valdes said.

Kelley has taught generations of students, including Sergio Lopez at Neil Hafley and, now, his 6-year-old daughter, Isabella Lopez.

She’s now looking forward to life-after teaching.

Kelley, who was born in New Mexico, has always dreamed of attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

“The only thing is that it’s held in October and I’m always working,” she said.

 Her friends and family hope to make that dream come true, taking in donations for the trip to Albuquerque and aranging for Kelley to take a ride on the hot air balloon.

“I would love to do that,” she said. “For the first time in years, I’m free to do so.”