Oakland – When Arvella Hayden started working in Oakland Unified School District, it was an entirely different world. That year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize, Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, won the World Heavyweight Title, Beatlemania was all the rage as the The Beatles released “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the average cost of a house was $13,050, and gasoline cost 30 cents per gallon. The year was 1964.
Ms. Hayden joined the OUSD family 57 years ago. Now, in 2021, Ms. Hayden is retiring from her job as a kindergarten teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. “I hate to leave the children,” but she knows the time is right.
Ms. Hayden started her career at Arroyo Viejo Child Development Center, then moved on to teach at Lafayette Elementary, before coming to Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary. She spent almost 40 years at Lafayette. She was educated at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, and said it was clear early on she was going to be a teacher. “My oldest sister was a teacher and she taught for 40 years. She was my role model.”
“Just looking at her and seeing the love she gives the kids, she’s just special… just being a teacher this long, that’s a big gift,” said Dinah Castle, the school’s noon supervisor who has also worked in Ms. Hayden’s class for more than 30 years. “This keeps her going. She loves kids. She doesn’t have any kids, but these are her kids. She looks forward to getting up every morning and coming here.” (The note of appreciation to the right from four years ago hangs in Ms. Hayden’s classroom.)
Over the course of her career, Ms. Hayden has counted herself as lucky to have worked at such great schools. “The parents were very nice. I had nice principals, nice teachers, and everyone seemed just like one family.” She adds the people were the secret to why she was able to do the job for so long. “Everybody, like I said, was easy to get along with and helping each other… The community, the teachers and everything. It’s my family.”
“It is an honor and a privilege to work with an educator who has seen many decades of change in how students learn and how the education system operates,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary Principal, Roma Groves-Waters. “I am so appreciative to have worked with Arvella Hayden. She will be remembered as an icon for all teachers in America.”
Ms. Hayden has taught three generations of Oaklanders, saying she has had the grandchildren of some of her original students in her classes. “When I’m out in the community, I love to see and have them come and say, ‘Hi, Ms. Hayden. I remember you when you taught me.’ And that makes me feel real good.”
“We celebrate Arvella Hayden, a true living legend,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “I started in education in 1997, and at that point, Ms, Hayden had already been teaching for 33 years – which is itself a remarkable career in education. She has meant as much to the West Oakland community, and Oakland as a whole, as any single person in OUSD, and I cannot thank her enough for impacting the lives of so many students over the last half century plus.”
As she leaves teaching at the end of the 2020-21 school year next week, Ms. Hayden has some words of wisdom for her younger colleagues in the classroom. “You have to love to work with children. And don’t give up, just keep working. Stay with it, sometimes it may be a little hard, but you just have to buckle down and stay with it.”
Arvella Hayden plans to spend her retirement traveling and spending time with her family.
About the Oakland Unified School District
In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success.
To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.
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