Jaime Jimenez never envisioned staying at Santa Monica High School this long.
But when he takes stock of his job as a social studies teacher, he can’t come up with any good reasons to leave.
“It has been easy to stay at Samo — first of all, [because of] a great faculty and staff,” he said. “The daily interaction of students, hearing their viewpoints, dreams and exchanging of ideas, makes Samohi a fun and interesting place to go to each morning. From maintenance workers, secretaries and other support staff to teachers, these are the daily heroes who have made my job easier to do.”
Jimenez has been doing his job in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district for four decades, putting him in the uppermost echelon of employees on a scale of longevity. He and other SMMUSD staffers with at least 30 years of service to the district were recognized at last month’s convocation at Barnum Hall.
Jimenez is part of an esteemed group of teachers who have been around since the 1970s. The dean of the bunch is Janine Galvan, who joined the child development services department in 1976. In 1988 she became a kindergarten teacher at McKinley Elementary School, where she remains a faculty member today.
Lorna Loopesko, who is in her 40th year of work in the district, started as a substitute teacher and later served as a teacher at Will Rogers Elementary School. She is now a humanities teacher at John Adams Middle School.
Debbie Saenz, also in her 40th year with SMMUSD, joined the district in 1977 as a classroom assistant. She has worked at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in Malibu and as a special education teacher at JAMS and Olympic High School as well as at Samohi, where she is employed today.
For Jimenez, who has been at Samohi since 1977, teaching came naturally. He previously worked as a park director, coordinating sports leagues and coaching youths. He also set up a tutoring program.
“There is no greater thrill than to see a person understand a concept, or figure out how things work,” he said.
Jimenez began his teaching career in Lamont, a small town southeast of Bakersfield where he spent two years. He then took a job as a history teacher at Samohi and, 40 years later, he’s still there.
The biggest changes in his teaching career have come in technology. Jimenez now streams videos instead of 16-millimeter film, and he has adjusted to widespread Internet use for academic projects.
“It has been a necessity in the toolbox of supporting materials,” said Jimenez, whose students can still expect to see him writing on the chalkboard. “Students are now more engaged via social media, and at the same time the students have a better and bigger picture of what is going on in the world.
“The essence of the high school students remains the same — they stress about tests, conflicts with parents, flirting with others, sharing gossip, while at the same time confronting the realities of the world.”
Each April, Jimenez assesses his future plans. Asked whether he has thought about retirement, he said he hasn’t zeroed in on a particular date to leave Samohi.
“If I believe I can still instruct and make learning second-nature,” he said, “I will come back.”