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County Taps Dent's Pendleton For Excellence
First grade teacher Kathy Pendleton has had some unexpected surprises and joys come out of her teaching career, but probably none more than the recent announcement of her selection as a 'San Joaquin A+' honors recipient.

Her award for excellence in teaching will presented at an evening celebration on May 3 at the Stockton Golf and Country Club.

A teacher at Dent Elementary, Pendleton started with the Escalon Unified School District in 1980, serving as an instructional aide for four years.

After that time, she went to Stanislaus State and obtained her bachelors degree and then received her credential through a UOP program.

"In 1987 I was hired as the first intern the school had and I job-shared for two years with another teacher," Pendleton explained. "Then I became fulltime."

Her career has been in the elementary grades, spending some time teaching in pre first as well as first grade.

Originally, Pendleton wanted to go into nursing but with two daughters at home, she needed to find work that would allow her to provide for them but also be home with them in the summer. Teaching fit the bill.

"It has been a great choice," Pendleton admitted.

The best part of teaching, she said, is when you know that your students 'get' what you are trying to teach them.

"It's that 'aha' moment," she said. "You see them and they realize "I can read this' or 'I can do it myself'."

The growth in first grade, she added, is enormous, with the students being able to write in complete sentences by the time they are done with that grade.

"Long ago you would spend a lot of time reviewing at the start of the year, now we just start right off with new things," she said.

Pendleton has lived in Escalon since she was a sophomore in high school and daughters Jenni Spears and Juliana Pendleton also still live here. Jenni, also with a career in education, has three children, while Juliana went into the medical field and is a respiratory therapist.

For her part, the honored teacher said she is humbled by the selection.

"I was sort of speechless," she admitted of her reaction when she got the letter informing her of the award.

"So many teachers step up and do the best they can," she said.

This year's first grade class, Pendleton said, is an exceptional one, with the ability to work independently. So much emphasis is placed on getting students ready quickly, she noted, that it's a tough job to do.

But she wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

"It's a rewarding profession," said Pendleton. "You have to want to make a difference, that has to be the main focus. You are making a difference for the next generation of leaders of this country."

Pendleton's mom, Virginia Ferreira, has been coming to her classroom for years, teaching art on Monday and Friday afternoons and daughter Juliana has also joined in, helping students take accelerated reader tests on the computer and reading to them.

Only 12 educators throughout San Joaquin County have been chosen for the award this spring.

"We have so many exceptional teachers but she's a perfect example of excellent teaching," said Dent Elementary Principal Kendra Helsley. "She takes students with a diverse range of needs and abilities and is very skilled at finding a way to fill those needs in the classroom and they are really ready for second grade."

Pendleton is also a grade level leader, for Dent and the district as a whole, added Helsley.

"She has one of those minds that can see the big picture," Helsley said.

Pendleton said among her favorite things to teach is the science unit on weather.

"That is so tangible to them, it is right outside the door," she said. "It also helps build our Splash Zone musical production in the fall, they are so proud to get up there and do that performance."

The May 3 awards presentation honoring Pendleton and the other selected teachers will be hosted by Kaiser Permanente.