In 1991, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico from Raton, New Mexico and started two lifelong relationships with two team-teachers, Rhonda Sandoval and Rebecca Betzen. We grew beyond colleagues to friends. Here’s why I’m thankful for them in my life.
First, I started team-teaching with Rhonda for sixth graders at Washington middle school. She taught math, science and social studies. I taught language arts, literature and Spanish.
Rhonda taught me so much about classroom management. She had a B.S. in Sociology and had worked with tough kids before, so her strict but fair discipline kept our students well behaved. Her famous “Honest Man” speech showed me how to get students to be honest first and then value of honesty.
Next, a couple of years later, we added Rebecca to our team, so we split the teaching areas with her. Rebecca student taught with Rhonda and, but the three of us worked together. When she finished her student teaching, we enjoyed her so much, we wanted her to join our team, so our principal hired her. Rebecca’s positive attitude was infectious!
We did interdisciplinary units where we worked on projects for an extended period that addressed all the content areas. We had a Future City unit and a Native American Unit the students loved. In fact, they enjoyed these projects so much we had to kick them out of the classroom to go to lunch. Our teaching techniques complimented and supported each other, and our students thrived!
For Halloween, we put on a play with vampires and more vampires. We had it translated into Spanish, so each class did the play in both languages. Rhonda designed the sets, and Rebecca and I rehearsed the lines. Early Halloween morning, the three of us arrived at the school to do the makeup for all the kids. How they enjoyed it! Team work—that’s what they both taught me! Life is better done as a team.
We partied at Rhonda or Rebecca’s houses often. For many Christmases, Mom and I would attend a party at Rhonda’s house and her parents would be there too!
The End of Our Team-Teaching
I left the team first in about 2000, then we ended up back together later in our careers for a couple years, working together, which was a dream come true. Rhonda had become a principal and hired Rebecca and me to work at her school. It never felt strange to work for Rhonda because of the type of person she is.
Throughout the years we have been apart, we scheduled regular time to meet, eat, and talk endlessly about our lives. We have gone through the deaths of a couple of Rhonda’s dogs. As the years unfolded, we watched Rebecca’s four daughters grow up, graduate, and move on with life. We celebrated Rebecca’s granddaughters when they arrived. We mourned the death of Rebecca’s family members. Rhonda has been with me for three of my four marriages; Rebecca for two.
In 1993, I got deathly sick and ended up in the hospital for the first time in my life. Rhonda was my first visitor and was so helpful through the whole horrible ordeal.
I lost both of my parents during our friendship, and when Mom got sick in 2013, Rhonda visited her in the hospital twice. When she died in 2013, Rhonda and Rebecca drove to Trinidad, Colorado, for her funeral. That’s the friends they are.
When Lin and I married in 2011, they stood up with me and celebrated our wedding day.
Yes, we worked together—team-teachers, but because of these two women and how we related, we became enduring friends I know I can count on for anything. We may not talk for a few months, but when we get together, we pick up right where we left off! In fact, we have our annual Christmas get-together already scheduled.
Thank you, Rhonda and Rebecca for your constant support and love over the years!
Do you have friends from work that are close to you? How do you keep close?
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