It’s nice to see you this morning
âIt was you.â
It was when Grade Level Coordinator (GLC) Ruthellyn Whittington heard these words when she knew education was right for her.
Whittington was teaching writing in the Los Angeles Unified District in a class of all high school freshmen boys where there were many fights and disagreements in class. Though she connected with them through an essay she wrote about the loss of her father as a child, there were still many disagreements, but as the year came to a close, it was evident that something changed.
âThere was one specific young man [who] would intervene and help me,â Whittington said. âAnd toward the end of the year, I said, âYou look different, youâre dressed different, you present yourself differently.â I asked, âWhat happened?ââ
She got her answer in those three words.
âI affected him, he affected me, and the reason why I stayed in education was because of that young man,â Whittington said.
And so she stayed as an educator for a total of 38 years. From substituting at a LAUSD middle school to teaching writing in El Monte, she later found her home when a position opened up at Walnut for English and Art. She taught classes including Fundamentals of Art, Advanced Art, AP Studio Art and AP Art History for 12 years and wrote the UC and IB art curriculum classes before becoming a counselor in 2002.
âWalnut has given me is the opportunity to grow as an educator,â Whittington said. âIâve grown in my ability to develop curriculum and to be creative in teaching art. I was able to move within the system from a teacher to a counselor, so it gave me a lot of opportunities as a professional to grow. You may be closer to students as a teacher because you see them every day, but as a counselor you help with guiding them through high school and beyond high school.â
When asked what sheâll miss the most at Walnut, Whittington had only one word to say.
âStudents. Of course Iâll miss the students. I have been in the business of educating teenagers for 38 years,â Whittington said. âStudents always impact me and I learn from them every day. They teach me valuable lessons and help me become a better listener. I think the students are the best teachers.â
Whittingtonâs retirement was a difficult decision to make, but her impact on young people doesnât stop here. She plans to volunteer with families of poverty and social justice organizations in Pomona, along with plans to travel and get back into her artwork.
By Olivia Chiang, Coverage lead
Photo by Jessie Dixon