Saying the last farewell to her students, math teacher Kadriye Kanik officially retired on Dec. 20 after 16 years of working for the district. Following her retirement, Kanik plans to spend time with her husband in Florence, Italy and accompany him as he works at the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory for six months.
Having worked previously at the Middle East Technical University in her hometown of Ankara, Turkey as a programmer, and at Washington Irving Middle School in Los Angeles as a math teacher, Kanik found her time teaching math to students to be the most rewarding.
“I liked [the] kids more than the computers,” Kanik said. “It was more challenging. [The computers] suddenly got [on] my nerves, so I spent two days looking for a dot to correct my program and then I changed [my mindset].”
Kanik was a student teacher at San Gabriel High School under retired math teacher Juanita Ortman before she came to work full time.
“[Being a student teacher] was a blessing,” Kanik said. “It was a dream come true, because I loved the kids so much. I just didn’t want it to end, and it didn’t.”
Before her departure, Kanik found saying goodbye to be an extremely difficult task and wanted to thank her students for an experience of a lifetime.
“You guys were so enthusiastic, and you guys were funny, too,” Kanik said. “It was impossible to get mad at you. You made it fun. Thank you. It was [the] highlight of my life.”
Her class was considered by many students to have a comfortable and amusing environment. Sophomore Justin Chong cracked many jokes in class, and Kanik often replied back with jokes of her own. For some, her conversations with her students and the nicknames she gave to them made the class stand out.
“She made learning math enjoyable for us and worked hard to make sure we understood the material,” Chong said. “I hope everything goes well during her retirement.”
The day Kanik left, many of her students were heartbroken to see her go and gave her gifts to celebrate her departure.
“We were crying,” freshman Tammy Vuong said. “[My friends and] I made her a poster. It said ‘Merry Christmas’ and other students signed it.”
Math teacher Huong Tran and other teachers from the math department ate lunch with Kanik every Thursday for the past two years, sharing stories about their lives outside of work. With Kanik’s bittersweet retirement, Tran is left with mixed emotions.
“I’m happy for her, because I think she [has] served us well in the last…I don’t know how many years,” Tran said. “But I’m super sad, because I lost a friend [and] a colleague.”
To Kanik, the math department is her “second family” and her growth as a teacher has been, in part, due to them and her students. Throughout her years of teaching, Kanik has seen a positive change in her character as an educator and as a person in regards to her tolerance and patience. She has a few words of advice for the future teacher who will take her place.
“Love the kids,” Kanik said. “Enjoy it. Enjoy the trip; it’s beautiful.”
Currently, there is a long-term substitute teacher who has taken over for Kanik, but the administrators and the district are still on the search for someone who will fill the empty spot.