When the final bell sounds to end the spring semester, so will it conclude a career spanning five decades on local school campuses for the institution known affectionately as Mr. T.
Larry Teshara, director of the San Mateo Adult School and former Burlingame High School principal, announced plans to retire at the end of the school year after 50 years of working in education across San Mateo County.
Looking back, Teshara, 73, attributed his longevity to a boundless passion for teaching and influencing the lives of young learners.
“My primary interest and career have been the same thing, and I consider that to be a blessing,” said Teshara, who came to the San Mateo Union High School District in 1972 as a 28-year-old counselor at Crestmoor High School in San Bruno after working as a teacher for five years in the San Bruno Park Elementary School District.
He transitioned from his counseling role to become the assistant principal at Aragon High School, before being named principal of Burlingame High School, where he stayed for 15 years.
Though he has spent a majority of his time in education as an administrator, Teshara said he has always considered himself a teacher.
“Everyone at a school is a teacher, because kids are modeling, observing and watching everything we do all the time,” he said. “Even when you wish they wouldn’t.”
Seeing Teshara practice his craft as the head of a school is akin to witnessing a master of his element, weaving through crowds of students between classes and teachers greeting each individually and frequently offering a gentle ribbing or joke.
A personal touch is integral to making a good educator, said Teshara, who said the defining characteristic of the most qualified teachers is the ability to be earnest and up-front with students.
“The commonality is authenticity,” he said. “If you present yourself as an authentic adult, students and young people will react to it.”
A healthy sense of humor helps too, he said.
“If it’s funny, then laugh,” he said. “Especially if it is about yourself.”
Following his move to the adult school, Teshara said he has learned to appreciate the unique learning environment apart from the traditional setting offered at the district’s comprehensive schools.
Adult school classes are offered to students seeking English language skill development, career technical education, high school or general education diplomas, training for citizenship exams or a variety of other enrichment programs.
He has formed a deep admiration for the hard work and commitment shown by adult school students, as many balance a variety of personal and professional obligations against their pursuit for a better education.
“People are learning, growing and trying to improve,” he said. “It’s a good thing. It’s a positive workplace.”
He also expressed his esteem for teachers at the school who volunteer their time to offer guidance to fellow community members.
“They are almost like missionaries in their desire to serve a population that is underserved, to say the least,” he said.
The confluence of distinctive perspectives is unlike most other schools, where some young students may resent their obligation to attend classes, he said.
“This place is a little more magical, because everyone is a volunteer,” he said. “We don’t have to tell them it is important. They know it and that is why they are here.”
Looking ahead to being granted an abundance of free time, Teshara said he is uncertain exactly how he will fill his days, but imagines family will take a priority as his second grandchild was born only one month ago.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly said in a press release Teshara will leave a lasting impression on the adult school, as well as the district.
“Larry is a community icon,” he said. “He is an extraordinary man who has done extraordinary things for so many people. He will be dearly missed from the halls of the adult school and district leadership meetings.”
Former superintendent Tom Mohr expressed a similar sentiment in a prepared statement.
“Larry Teshara has had a phenomenal career. No one in this county who has been responsible for thousands of students, has served students in a more professional and principled manner,” said Mohr, who now serves as president of the San Mateo County Community College Board of Trustees. “He is the manifestation of all the qualities an educator should strive for.”
Though his work is not officially done for another five months, Teshara said he does not plan to rest on his laurels once he closes the book on the final chapter of a long and accomplished career.
“I’ll miss the action of the school and the interaction with the students,” he said. “I hope I keep some connection, but I’ll find something to do.”
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