Two teachers and a Food Service Manager will be retiring from Cardozo Middle School this month after several years of service. Science Teacher, Marjorie Retzloff, will be retiring after 38 years, Art and English Teacher, Jeri O’Neal will be retiring after 28 years, and Carol Cantwell, Food Service Manager for the Riverbank Unified School District, will be retiring after 35 years.
Retzloff’s mother and grandmother were teachers so the teaching gene was planted in her since she was a kid, she said. One of the things that she enjoyed as a child, in fact, was ‘playing school.’
“I also had many inspirational teachers in the course of my education who encouraged me to become a teacher,” said Retzloff.
Asked what some of the highlights were throughout her time at Cardozo, she expressed the following: “Far and away, the relationships I made while working here have enriched my life. I have enjoyed coming to school and loved what I do. Lastly, I hope that I helped my students have a love of learning and in some way helped them see the possibilities for themselves of how science would be helpful in their lives.”
She added that she will miss “the special people with whom I have been privileged to work.”
Retzloff plans to spend her time being more involved with her husband, kids, and grandkids. She may take some art and music classes in the future and plans to help out at her church more often. You may even spot her out on the golf course as she enjoys her retirement.
Cantwell has spent 35 years in food service and 23 of those years as the District Food Service Manager. She stated that she enjoyed seeing all the growth over the years, like when she first started out they only served lunch and now they serve breakfast, lunch, and after school snacks.
“It is nice to be a part of seeing that children can eat healthy meals at school. When there is that one child who is just glowing when they get their meal and that is a good feeling,” said Cantwell. “During the meal service times the students are in an environment which they can talk and mingle with each other. It can get very loud with all the talking but still rewarding to know they are enjoying their time in the cafeteria.”
Cantwell experienced some challenges like trying to develop new menus, but overall the changes she has experienced have been positive.
“I have a wonderful staff and I am a people person so I will miss them and all the contacts with administrators, staff and students,” Cantwell said of a downside of retirement. “In our department the staff works really diligently and so it’s nice that when you come into the kitchens you see staff enjoying their time with each other. My desk is at Cardozo Middle School and I have enjoyed listening to students in the after school program doing the activities.”
Cantwell will be spending her retirement with her husband Roger and they plan to embark on travels whenever they feel like it. She plans on spending more time with her seven-year-old grandson who plays sports and a granddaughter they are expecting in early September.
O’Neal recalled always wanting to teach since she was a young child. She would play the role of the teacher when the neighborhood kids would play school. She remembered being so into the part of ‘playing’ a teacher that she would even grade papers and conduct fire drills.
After graduating from San Diego University, O’Neal began teaching in Torrance, California. In 1985, her husband’s job moved them to Modesto, and for the next 28 years she called Cardozo Middle School her teaching home.
O’Neal’s first year at Cardozo was spent as the girl’s volleyball coach. The second year she advised the student council and a leadership class was added to the curriculum. O’Neal also helped develop and implement a conflict resolution class for the seventh and eighth graders. Since 2002, she has been the advisor for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which is a college readiness program designed to increase learning and performance.
She has dabbled in many activities including drawing, making bracelets, ceramic containers, quilts and cards. O’Neal has written and illustrated children’s books with their dog Taffy as the heroine. She expressed that she really loves to read and often spends evenings getting lost in a good book.
“I still love to read a book and wish more of my students would pick up a passion for reading whether it be a book, Kindle, or listening to a CD,” said O’Neal.
As far as retirement, the longtime teacher said is just seemed like the time was right for the decision.
“It is time. My intuition, my logic, my age and society in general tell me it is time to hang up the whistle and grade book and pursue other interests. Retiring is a major life change and I know I will miss the friendships of fellow teachers and some amazing students.”
O’Neal expressed that she is looking forward to her life as a retiree and will be spending time in her garden as well as playing with her many craft tools. She plans to fulfill her creative ideas that she has had over the years but has not had the time to pursue. If you don’t find her creating at home, you may see her and her husband with their dogs on their pontoon out on the lake, enjoying some quality time together.