We are a society who puts aside one day a year dedicated to our mothers and our fathers. Somehow on those individual days we try to express to our parents how much they mean to us, how much they’ve taught us and influenced us, and how grateful we are for all they’ve done. We buy flowers or candy, and silly greeting cards with sentimental poems, trying to let them know that we love and appreciate them. Yet, we all know that a greeting card or a box of chocolates can never convey all that we owe our parents.
A small group of San Clemente villagers are a direct testament to the power of parents to influence their children. The choices they have made and the way they are living their daily lives reflects this influence. These San Clementeans have chosen to follow their parent’s footsteps into the noble profession of teaching, and the impact they are having on the village children is a direct result of the inspiration they received from their own parents.
Bridgett (Beschen) Burke
It’s natural for young adults to turn to their parents for help and advice. For Bridgett (Beschen) Burke, having her mom, longtime resident Sue Beschen, right next door during her first year of teaching at Bernice Ayer Middle School has been a true blessing. Mother and daughter frequently discuss classroom strategies, and Sue is never hesitant to share her insights and wisdom with Bridgett whenever it’s needed.
Sue’s 13 years of experience comes in quite handy when Bridgett finds herself facing some of those inevitable challenges inherent in those first years of teaching. Of course, it helps that Bridgett was a frequent visitor to her mother’s classroom when she was growing up. She definitely began her “teacher training” long before she ever enrolled in a credential program.
Today, while Bridgett’s youth and enthusiasm definitely inspire her students, behind it all is a strong foundation built while growing up the daughter of a teacher.
Michelle (Fernandez) Manley
Some of Michelle (Fernandez) Manley’s earliest memories are of she and her sister Pam Fernandez climbing in the branches of the giant tree that grew in front of the old Capistrano High School in San Juan. The girls would be out front playing while their mom, Evelyn Fernandez, was working inside in her classroom, teaching art to high school students from all over southern Orange County.
After 31 years, Evelyn eventually retired from teaching but she left a lasting legacy in her daughter, Michelle, who is now a second grade teacher at Vista Del Mar Elementary School. Michelle is a true product of the San Clemente school system, attending preschool at the Serra site (now the bus depot), elementary at Palisades and Ole Hanson, junior high at Marco Forster and, of course, San Clemente High School.
After graduating college Michelle spent a few years at Del Obispo elementary in San Juan before settling at Vista Del Mar elementary in Talega. She learned many things about her chosen profession from her mother. Two of the most outstanding are: never underestimate the influence you have over the students whom you work with everyday, and, a topic near and dear to Evelyn’s heart – never forget the importance of art in the classroom.
In these days of budget cutting and standardized testing, it’s easy for subjects like art to fall by the wayside. Michelle, however, makes it a priority in her second grade classroom, encouraging students to nurture their creative side.
Growing up in the Fernandez family, Michelle experienced perks like surf trips to Mexico with the Marco surf team, of which Evelyn was a sponsor, but there could be drawbacks too. Michelle remembers that when she was attending Marco at the same time her mom taught there, she was on a very short leash.
“It seemed like any little thing I did got straight back to my mom. I couldn’t get away with anything!”
Michelle’s two children probably feel the same way today. But they, like Michelle, understand that the perks far outweigh the drawbacks. A love of learning and a healthy respect for teachers are the legacy Michelle received from her mom and is passing on to her children today.
For Carla Sisca, following in her father’s footsteps just felt right. Tony Sisca was a very popular and highly respected teacher and baseball coach at San Clemente High School for many years. He passed on to Carla his love of history and his enthusiasm to share that love with his students. Tony had a special way of making the past come alive for his students, and Carla continues that legacy today teaching Advanced Placement History at San Clement High School. Just as Tony did, Carla stresses the relevance of the past and its connection to the future.
Carla received first rate on-the-job training as a student in Tony’s class and later when she was privileged to team-teach with her dad the first five years of her career. She got a first-hand look at him using humor to reach and inspire his students, and she says she sees herself
becoming more like him in the classroom every day.
Carla enjoys working in the same town she grew up in, and loves watching her own students grow up, move on and then return to San Clemente High School just like she did. This year there are at least three students Carla taught who have returned to San Clemente High as teachers themselves.
As her own three children follow the path from Concordia Elementary, to Shorecliffs Middle School and eventually to High School, Carla looks forward to the day they might sit in her classroom. She hopes to inspire them just as her dad did her.
Who knows, maybe one day one of them will pay Carla that ultimate compliment and ask to share her classroom just like she did with her dad. b