by Jason Taormino
I would like to thank everyone who works at Cesar Chavez Elementary. This past week was very difficult for all of us with the death of Eva Dopico over Thanksgiving break, but I imagine it was especially so for her long-time fellow colleagues. As a parent of one of Senora Dopico’s students I realized that this week would likely have a life-long effect on my child. I was deeply worried. What came to pass this week was true compassion wrapped inside professionalism. My understanding of the true meaning of the word teacher has been expanded in a way I did not know was possible.
I am thankful for many of your actions and the actions for others in the Chavez & DJUSD community, and feel that recognizing a few, as examples, is appropriate. A personal phone call from Jenn Mullins to tell us of Eva’s death. A letter outlining upcoming meetings and resources for talking with our children from our team at the school district. A note from our Principal Veronica Dunn expressing personal grief, worries about her own children who attend Cesar Chavez and what was being organized to care for the entire Cesar Chavez community – including alumni at other schools. A hug from retired Principal Denise Beck on the blacktop Monday morning. Your presence spoke to the power of the community and love for Senora Dopico.
I saw the grief on our teacher’s faces as they walked to the blacktop to lead their students to class. Every morning was a lesson for all our children on how to grieve and keep living. Senorita Angelo, my daughters’ 1st grade teacher, hugged my daughter and told her that anytime she was feeling sad she could come to her class and help with the first graders. That was an expression of compassion that was really needed at that moment and was a perfect way to connect with a 7 year old dealing with a tough situation.
“What do we call our class?,” asked my daughter. I didn’t quickly recognize that there is an identity associated with being in Dopico’s class and now there were many kids wondering what to say. On Monday morning we had Bugsch, Paz, Carillo and three others on hand to help. Teachers moved classrooms, came out of retirement and shifted their schedules. Thank you.
After school on Friday, we had a meeting with Senora Bugsch who shared how the children were adjusting, how they’d talked about ‘change’, and how together they were navigating a new present and future. I would like to thank her, along with Senora Paz, for becoming our children’s new teachers.
Thank you to everyone who in our community who honored and grieved for Eva Dopico and who took care of our children this week.