First-grade teacher Mona Marlett has spent her entire 20 years at East Valley in a first-grade classroom at Trentwood Elementary School. She’ll be leaving the classroom for good this week, retiring even though leaving her young charges behind is difficult.
She stayed in teaching all that time because of the tremendous joy she receives from teaching children to read. Just speaking about it is enough to bring tears to her eyes. “That’s just an amazing thing to be able to do,” she said. “That’s why I’ve kept at first grade.”
Two of her former students, Adam Szember and Andrew Curtis, remember her fondly. Both just graduated from East Valley High School and formed their friendship in her class. “She’s kind of a grandma figure,” Curtis said.
Both remember her as being a fun teacher while still keeping unruly kids in line, a description they sheepishly say sometimes applied to them. “We were over energetic,” said Curtis. “She would keep us in line if she needed to.”
Szember remembers dreading reading out loud at that age because he was a “horrible” reader. “She would always help me along so I didn’t look so bad,” he said.
Since he lives only a few houses away from her, he still sees Marlett regularly as she takes walks in the neighborhood. “She always gives a smile and a wave as she walks by and asks how you’re doing,” he said. “When she retires, we’ll probably see her walking around a lot more.”
Marlett, 62, was pleased to hear that her former students thought of her as both fun and firm. “That would be a wonderful description of me,” she said. “That’s nice to know that they think that.”
Trentwood Principal Sigrid Brannan also has plenty of praise for Marlett. “I would call Mona the kind of teacher we all hope our kids have for first grade,” she said. “She cares deeply for kids. She has that old-fashioned attachment to kids that I remember from my favorite elementary teachers.”
Brannan knew Marlett before she took over as principal six years ago because their children went to school together. “To get to work with her has been such a treat,” she said. “She got into teaching for all the right reasons. She cares about kids, and she knows her stuff. She’s smart, and she’s dedicated. What more can you ask?
Marlett’s teaching career has spanned more than 20 years. She worked for Central Valley for five years and did some substitute teaching before staying home for several years with her children. After a few more years of substitute work, she landed what would become her permanent job at Trentwood.
She’s retiring so she can do some traveling with her husband, Joe, who retired eight years ago after teaching in the Cheney School District for 33 years. “We have a trip to England and Scotland in August,” she said. “We’re going to have our first grandchild in January. We’re going to help babysit.
“I’m going to be able to work in my yard in September. Before, when school would start, my poor flowers would be on their own.”
She also has a trip to the Oregon Coast planned for September, but that trip is just to get her out of town when school starts without her for the first time in decades. “I just live a block and a half from school,” she said. “I can hear the bells. That’s going to be hard.”
It will be hard to leave behind her students and the relationships she forms with them, but Marlett said it’s time. “It’s really draining,” she said. “It’s hard to bend down to eye level like I used to.”
But since she lives down the street from the school, Marlett can look forward to seeing her former students for years to come. She loves to see them doing well. “As long as they’re successful and happy,” she said. “I always think maybe I helped a little.”
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