Townsend Junior High teacher Larry Avila said he is feeling overwhelmed at retiring “in a positive way.”
Former co-workers, students and parents have been visiting him after hearing the news that he was retiring after 33 years from the Chino Hills school.
Mr. Avila has 46 continuous years of employment with the district.
He worked as an instructional aide at Boys Republic in 1975 and later coached the boys’ varsity track team from 1988 to 2009.
“I’ve had a lot of great kids,” he said. “It’s just been wonderful.”
Mr. Avila said he would continue working if not for COVID-19, which sent him to the emergency room several times last July.
He was close to being admitted to the hospital, but opted to recover at home in Ontario when a nurse said he might have to be intubated.
At home, he was afraid to go to sleep for fear he wouldn’t wake up.
“It’s been a rough year and it’s time to take a breath, literally,” he said.
He looks forward to slowing down, relaxing, and reading American classics.
“It will be hard, but there are things I need to do with my friends and family,” he said.
Mr. Avila is married with one adult daughter and four grandchildren.
He said the biggest challenge of his teaching career was working virtually. “That overwhelmed me,” he said.
“Technology has changed education,” he said. “But as far as working with the kids, that hasn’t changed.”
Mr. Avila said he starts each school year by discussing with students what values are and how they help in life.
“I’ve realized the value of respecting people and I’ve built my success on building respect with my students,” Mr. Avila said.
Never give up
He used examples from his life to teach students about perseverance, and the importance of having mentors.
He considered becoming a teacher while working at Boys Republic when the physical education coach, John Bothel, took him under his wing and saw his potential.
Under Coach Bothel’s guidance, Mr. Avila enrolled in college and took a custodian job in the evenings at Ramona Junior High.
He worked there for 12 years while attending Chaffey College, the University of California at Riverside, and Cal Poly Pomona.
After earning his degree in social studies, he moved from custodian to student teacher at Ramona.
“This is why I teach my kids to never give up,” he said. “I tell them if I can do it, they can do it better.”
Mr. Avila grew up in Chino and attended the former El Rancho Elementary, and Ramona Junior High when it first opened in the early 1960s.
“I was hyper and liked to have fun,” he said.
He became “a class clown” and in fourth grade received all Fs and had to catch up.
He continued to flounder as a student, until 11th grade at Chino High when he took a math class with teacher Hugh Beck.
“He took the time to tell me I had great skills and that I could do something if I applied myself,” Mr. Avila said.
Mr. Avila said sometimes he recognizes his former self in students who are not achieving in school.
“I have spoken to many of them,” he said. “I tell my students you can do better than I did.” Mr. Avila said he tries to be like the teachers who inspired him.
“Success you don’t do alone. Everyone who has been successful in their endeavors has had support,” he said.