Something powerful drew Lova Hyatt to the world of teaching. And something even stronger kept her there for 40 years.

As she prepares to retire from the Santa Monica-Malibu school district at the end of the school year, Hyatt hardly sounds surprised that she’s been around for four decades.

“To me, a professional teacher is more of a vocation than a job,” she said. “It’s like a calling toward a special kind of work in the world. I feel I was called not only because of the innate qualities I was born with, but the skills I acquired as I continued to improve by experimenting, discovering, and expanding in this vocation.”

Hyatt leaves SMMUSD with a trove of strong relationships, an abundance of happy memories and the satisfaction of knowing she tried to do her best with the children in her classrooms each day.

She also steps away with a collection of professional awards and honors. She was once named teacher of the year at John Adams Child Development Center, she received a certificate of merit for outstanding service at that 17th Street campus in 1987 and was recognized as teacher of the year at John Muir Elementary School in 2000.

“As a teacher, I felt self worth knowing that I tried daily to make a difference in a child’s life by touching them in some unique way,” she said. “In my classroom, I strove to give opportunities to learn about life, about each other, and about how society works. I feel the child’s classroom is their society. It’s important to encourage them to look at how their body, mind, environment and world function.”

The seeds of Hyatt’s education career were planted during her own schooling, when she tried figuring out why she liked certain teachers and loathed others. She then acted as a teacher to the children in her neighborhood.

Hyatt grew up on the Westside, attending Richland Avenue Elementary School and splitting time at Webster and Marina Del Rey middle schools before graduating from Venice High School in 1973.

After earning an associate’s degree in child development at Santa Monica College, Hyatt began working in SMMUSD in the mid-1970s at John Adams Child Development Center under the direction of Rose Honda. She was responsible for children ages 5 and under for about 20 years.

While teaching preschool, Hyatt took night classes to earn her bachelor’s degree and education credential at Cal State Northridge.

In 1996 Hyatt transferred to John Muir Elementary, where she’s been for the last two decades. Last year Hyatt married Stuart Shimotsu, whom she had been dating for about 12 years.

Hyatt said she hasn’t thought much about what she will do in retirement, but she’ll probably have more time for the singing career she launched some 35 years ago.

With a foundation of weekly vocal technique lessons, Hyatt has performed in the Los Angeles-based Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire company Opera a la Carte for more than 10 years. She’s been involved in several musical productions as well.

“I feel these experiences helped me to effectively conduct groups of young children by capturing and incorporating excitement and enthusiasm for learning in the classroom,” she said. “I definitely feel they need an important connection to beautiful things in our world.”