A tribute to Mrs. Kieta, beloved La Serna teacher

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Ashley Lord, The Freelancer

History teacher Pat Kieta is set to possibly retire at the end of this school year.

Emily Shintani, Managing Editor

Pat Kieta, a beloved history teacher at La Serna who has been teaching for more than twenty-five years, will possibly retire at the end of this school year. Although the official decision will not be known until October 15, it’s a move that will sadden many of her former students.

Kieta first discovered her love for teaching when she was young.

“I just knew I wanted to be a teacher. It’s just what I wanted to do,” she said.

Growing up in a house with parents who valued education highly, she always strived to be her best. As the senior class president at her high school, she even qualified to be Valedictorian. Due to her hard work and determination, Kieta became the first in her family to go to, and graduate from, college.

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in history at Whittier College, Kieta spent one year teaching before going to work for Bank of America and raising a family. Wanting to return to her dream job of teaching, Kieta made her way down from San Jose to Whittier, and soon joined the Lancer family.

“I wanted to go to La Serna because I had one kid going to La Habra and one already at La Serna,” Kieta said.

First hired in 1990 as an EL teacher (English Language), she taught Language Skills 1-3 in addition to World Civilizations (World Civ). As time passed, her classes eventually changed, but for the first five years, she taught all of the freshman, the school being small enough at the time to know every face that attended. Though a bit sad that the school is growing at the rate it is (as the large amounts of people make it difficult to meet more than a small percent of the total population), the school is very special to her.

“This school holds a near and dear place in my heart,” she said.

As a result of being a teacher at La Serna for so long, Kieta sometimes is able to see her students return as her coworkers. Several members of the current staff, including math teacher Christine Herbert and counselor Danielle Kozicki, are now La Serna faculty members who work alongside their former teacher.

“You know it’s a good thing when former students come back and become teachers,” said Kieta.

Herbert and Kozicki shared their memories of their days in Kieta’s class.

Herbert, who had her both as a sophomore in Honors World Civ and as a junior in AP United States History (APUSH), remembered how committed she was to her students and how dedicated the students were in return.

“I remember how committed everyone was to going, like it wasn’t optional… it was something about the camaraderie where you just felt like ‘Of course. She’ll be expecting me,’ and there was this certain sense that if you didn’t go, she would be so disappointed and you never wanted to disappoint her. You never wanted to disappoint Mrs. Kieta,” Herbert said.

Kozicki, who had Kieta in her sophomore year in World Civ, remembered her class as being interesting, even to those who did not look so favorably at history.

“I just remember her being very engaging and that it was a very interesting class… history in general is not my strong suit, but with her teaching style and, you know, just making it fun, it definitely helped to get through a subject that’s maybe not my strength,” she said.

Both former students remember how strange it was to get used to referring to her by her first name, Pat, instead of her title, Mrs. Kieta.

“The first name thing is always kind of funny. I mean, I know she’s a ‘Pat’, in my heart she is not ‘Pat’, she is ‘Mrs. Kieta’. She will always deserve to be ‘Mrs. Kieta,'” Herbert said.

“I think it took me awhile to adjust to not calling her formally, ‘Mrs. Kieta’, and being able to use her first name; that was a huge adjustment,” Kozicki said.

Even more recent students, such as Senior Ksenia Verches, who had Kieta as a junior in APUSH, are affected by the idea that one day their admired teacher will leave.

“It sucks knowing that such a great teacher won’t be around to make an impact on the lives of potential students. It also makes me really appreciative that I got to have her as a teacher,” she said.

Regardless of when or for what class a student had Kieta as a teacher, all seem to agree that it’s unbelievable that she might not return next school year and La Serna would be without “The Mrs. Kieta”.

“To think of this place without her is definitely a bit strange, she is just so nurturing. She has earned this retirement so much… Thank you for being such a positive influence, for being the reason I got this job, and to have played such a large role in helping me develop as a teacher,” Herbert said.

“She’s such an asset to the school. Whoever comes in is going to have big shoes to fill; she’s a pretty amazing teacher,” Kozicki said.

“Thank you for teaching me so much and making the class so interesting…Oh, and for helping me pass the AP test!” Verches said.

As for her future plans, Kieta is still unsure. But, she does have dreams that she would like to achieve, such as traveling to historically-significant sites ranging from within the United States to places such as Tuscany, Italy and Spain. Though, true to her love of teaching, she might want to start working again as a supervisor of student teachers.

For those who also share her love and dedication to the art of educating others, she has some advice.

“I truly believe that teaching is a calling. You’ve got to have a curious mind, you’ve got to always be learning yourself, and you’ve got to love kids. It’s not a fallback kind of career. You really have to have a passion for learning. You’ve got to find your niche,” she said.