This post celebrates our Foothill Family, featuring the two longest-tenured teachers (Jan Graves and Laura Ghilarducci) and this year’s upcoming retirees (Pat Power and Connie Preston).
39 Years of Service to Foothill and Counting (1979- )
Prior to FHS, Jan taught English at McFarland High — and yes, she knew champion cross-country coach Jim “Blanco” White, as portrayed by Kevin Costner in the movie “McFarland U.S.A.”. In addition to teaching Math at FHS, Jan has also coached volleyball, swimming, basketball and cheer-leading, and has assisted in running track meets. Her sons David and Ricky, and husband Dick, were also very involved in supporting numerous FHS teams and activities.
It is impossible to list all teaching and coaching honors, but the fact she has been selected FHS Teacher of the Year, Kern County Jim Burke 1998 Teacher of the Year, and Inducted into the FHS Athletic Hall of Fame, should suffice to validate Jan’s success. Her student popularity was evidenced by being voted Miss Piggy for the huge Kiss-a-Pig Rally that was seen on national TV stations in 1985. She received a standing ovation as she was carried into the gym on a litter bearer atop the shoulders of football players to meet Sir Hog (Dave Slagle).
Jan has also appeared in, or helped plan, such memorable rallies as: Buck Owens, The Raisins, The Village People, We Are The World, and numerous other classics.
I was able to witness, as well as be a recipient of, her remarkable teaching skills when I was assigned to teach Math. She was patient, understanding, encouraging and soon had tutored me up to speed on math concepts that had eroded or become “fuzzy” over the years. This enjoyable experience has enabled me to now “pay it forward” as I am able to tutor students in math at the Bakersfield Police Activities Center.
Jan is the Matriarch of the Foothill Family, and is often called “Mama Foothill”. There are few FHS events or activities that do not have Jan’s attendance, input, or fingerprints on them. While mobility has slowed over the years, her love for Foothill and teaching burns as bright as ever. Her simple response to the longevity at FHS: “You must blossom where you are planted, and this is my home.” We thank you Jan for your loyalty and dedication to FHS, and may you continue as long as you wish.
35 Years of Service to Foothill and Counting (1983- )
Laura started as an English teacher at Arvin High, but came to Foothill in 1983 to teach Art and has done so ever since. Beyond teaching, she has also served as a volleyball and tennis coach.
She uses art to teach the total creative process which may involve a check list and use of problem-solving techniques before any student is able to create their final artistic objective. Students are asked to explore a variety of subject matter, various techniques, and even try their hand at sidewalk chalk murals. The amazing quality of their work is often seen on Homecoming Floats, campus posters, and in fine art stage productions.
Laura has also created many of the art logos we have seen on Foothill T-shirts over the years. Her best seller was the one she created for the classic FHS-BHS football game that attracted 17,875 to Memorial
Stadium. This shirt sold out long before kickoff and there was a huge demand for back orders.
When asked why she has stayed at FHS when she could teach at newer schools closer to home, Laura stated “I love the people and students on campus. It is a joy to get up and come to work every day. I feel like this is my home, second family and where I belong.” And we hope Laura will continue to make FHS her home and bless our students for many years to come.
26 Years of Service to Foothill (1992-2018)
At an FHS rally, Buck Owens once asked me to join him on stage to sing his hit “Streets of Bakersfield”. My voice was not great, but even more humbling was the fact I did not know all the words…which in this town, is almost akin to not knowing the words to our National Anthem!
As I blew this opportunity, I was certain my singing and stage career ended that day as well. But, a very likeable, persuasive Pat Power convinced me to make a “comeback” in 2002 (my last year) and perform in his stage production of “Damn Yankees”. My voice and acting skills were not all that great, and certainly paled in comparison to the very talented cast of FHS students, but it was one of the most poignant, wonderful experiences of my 40 years at FHS.
What an eye-opener to learn what a wonderful program Pat has created for students at FHS and how much time, energy and preparation goes into their productions. I was surrounded by a cast of very talented, helpful, encouraging and supporting students who made me feel special and better than I was. Before opening night, I saw just how many factors went into a successful stage production: tryouts, casting, makeup, costumes, sound, lighting, music, dance choreography, stage sets, rehearsals, ticket sales, intermission refreshments and other items had to be accomplished. I saw how calm and poised Pat was in handling, and resolving, all the unexpected pitfalls that befall a stage production. He constantly imparts encouragement, confidence and has a genuine desire to place all students a role that can provide them with a sense of accomplishment and a rewarding experience.
Pat has taught English, Drama and Film-Theater, and is in charge of the Peg Pauley Festival where his knowledge and grasp of Shakespeare works are locally unmatched. Pat had a serious recent auto accident and this has added some reluctance to his upcoming retirement as he still feels passion for teaching and has many things he still wants to accomplish.
Why did Pat decide to leave a high school in Arizona with countless perks and facilities to cast his lot with Foothill all these years? His reply: “I left a very rich Arizona school that had everything I needed, but I did not have a sense of being wanted/needed like I have at FHS. I really want to help families and students on this side of town have the best experiences possible. I am on some third generation families and students who are involved in and support this program. I love my job, the students and the people we have on this campus.”
We wish Pat well in retirement and feel certain we will continue to have his help and influence in future FHS and Bakersfield drama productions.
19 Years of Service to Foothill (1985-1994 & 2008-2018)
Connie is retiring this year, and that merits an entire blog later, so I will save that material and only whet your appetite with some basic facts now. Connie has broken barriers by becoming the first female student body president at Foothill as well as being the first girl to play on a boys basketball team before they had girls teams.
She has coached basketball, volleyball, and softball at FHS as well as being a football statistician, and is an FHS Hall of Fame Committee member. She teaches Special Education at FHS, and recently got to watch her super-talented, athletic daughter graduate from Sacramento State where she was a member of an outstanding rowing team.
What greater tribute and joy could a mother have but to learn Carli has now made plans to follow in mom’s footsteps and also become a Special Education teacher! Wishing Connie a well-deserved retirement, and look forward to learning more about her illustrious career in the near future.
There are many others to acknowledge as well (first year of Foothill service noted):
Current long-term FHS teachers: Brett Selby (1993), Pat Carlotti (1993), Denise Roberts James (1993), Dan Halbur (1994), Eric Bolstad (1996), Dallas Plater (1996), Carolyn Antongiovanni (1998), Wade Tavorn (2000)
Current long-term FHS staff: Greg Smith (1979), Alice Ojeda (1986), Joan Burbank (1993) and Brenda Arreola (1997).
FHS grads who are currently teaching at Foothill: Jennifer Morey West, Clay Freeman, Paul Contreras, Shelly Stevenson, Nicole Herrera Castro, Denise Roberts James, Connie St. John Preston, Connie Ayala Martin, Nancy Bier, Vernon Clark, Tina Del Toro Balance, Martha Flores and Dan Ingle.
FHS grads currently on staff at Foothill: Claudia Zamora. Daisy Vargas, Luz Aguinigia Del Gato and Hilda Aguinigia.
Some former FHS grads who have taught at Foothill but are at other Kern sites now (incomplete): Melissa Maples Rizo, Joe Cooper, Ernie Gutierrez, Joe Turner, David Reese, Dr. Joe Thompson, Dr. Steve Collett and Teresa Hutson.
(I apologize for any errors of omission and commission in any list above.)
Trivia Time: What FHS Department (of two or more people) have served as a unit the most average years?? The Boy’s P.E. Department holds this record: Dave Edmondson (34 years), Bob Ezell (38 years) and I (40 years). Our group served in that office for a total of 112 consecutive years, to make it an average of over 37 years per person.
During this period we all coached multiple sports. Also, Bob and I served as co-coaches of the Trojan football team 37 consecutive years together which also may be a record for a sport. What group is currently riding the longest streak on campus? It might be Pat Carlotti and Carolyn Antongiovanni who have been in the History Dept. since 1998.
A big thanks to all of these teachers, staff and campus workers who have spent so much of their lives making Foothill a special place for our students. What a Foothill Family Legacy!