The mantras and phrases would resonate with the hundreds of students, families and colleagues who have interacted with Lisa Berezowsky over the last two decades.
“I hear what you’re saying, but it’s not a choice.”
“If you ask a question, you give a choice.”
“Never underestimate the children.”
The sayings have become signatures of Berezowsky’s career as a special educator teacher in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district, a 19-year stint that will end when she retires after the end of the school year.
Berezowsky — or “Mrs. B,” as she’s known in her classroom at Will Rogers Learning Community — said she’ll look back fondly on her collection of fulfilling experiences in the local district.
“The families I have collaborated with have shown me tremendous support,” she said, noting that she’s been invited to the graduations of former students. “Some of these families still keep in touch with me, and I hope this will continue.”
The transition away from SMMUSD will bring mixed emotions for Berezowsky, who said she’ll miss her students and teaching life in Santa Monica. After taking some time off, she said, she’ll consider working as a consultant in the field.
Special education has long been a major part of Berezowsky’s life.
A New York native who went to Plainedge High School in North Massapequa, she met her husband while attending Sullivan County Community College. She then transferred to Richmond College on Staten Island, where she earned a degree in psychology with a minor in education.
While studying at Richmond she worked as an assistant at Willowbrook Developmental Center, where a teacher “opened up my world in special education,” Berezowsky said.
After moving from New York to Illinois and Illinois to California, she received her teaching credentials through Cal State Bakersfield and continued on for her master’s in special education.
Berezowsky worked for four years in the Westside Union School District in the Palmdale area before arriving in Santa Monica, where she’s held classroom positions at Will Rogers as well as John Muir, McKinley and Franklin elementary schools and Pine Street Child Development Center.
When she interviewed for a position in SMMUSD, Berezowsky was offered the chance to create a new class for the district — “an opportunity that doesn’t happen very often in a teaching career,” she said.
“I have worked with so many extremely talented instructional assistants, related service providers and administrators,” she said. “I am also very proud that many of my classroom assistants have gone on to become teachers and speech pathologists.”
As she prepares to step away from her classroom, Berezowsky is looking forward to spending more time with her family. She and her husband of 41 years, Norm, have one son and three grandchildren in Texas and another recently married son who lives locally. She also plans to travel and make time for ballroom and country-Western dancing.
But before she makes a beeline for retirement, Berezowsky will say bye to her students — or, as she calls them, “Mrs. B’s Bees.” It’ll be bittersweet, to be sure.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.