Ask Alex: Valley Oaks Elementary School Turns 60

Alex Belt

Alex Belt

In honor of Valley Oaks Elementary School’s (VOE) 60th birthday, I asked some of the people who make VOE a remarkable school – Principal Gary Henry, fourth grade teacher Gloria Seeberger, fifth grade teacher Marcia Looper and art teacher Kimberly Lamb – why they love it so much. This year will mark my 16th and final year as a VOE mom. I am saddened that this chapter of my life is closing, but I am so proud I have had the honor of being a VOE mom for 16 years!

Alex Belt: What is your favorite part of being the principal at VOE?

Gary Henry: I love hiring staff. I can tell in the first minute if the person will work out. What I look for when hiring is if the person is honest, sincere, intelligent and if they have that “spark.” I don’t feel like a boss but more of a cheerleader.

AB: Parents and staff all say that you relate so well with the students. Why is that?

GH: I feel that it is important not to forget where we came from. I have been a student, a teacher and now a principal. It is important that we keep that connection to our past, and that makes us who we are today.

AB: What do you love most about VOE?

Meghan Reily, Gary Henry  and Jeannette and Scout Belt at Valley Oaks Elementary School’s Dedication.

Meghan Reily, Gary Henry
and Jeannette and Scout Belt at Valley Oaks Elementary School’s Dedication.

Gloria Seeberger: VOE is not just a job or a school. VOE is about the kids, families and the faculty. As VOE teachers, we don’t say, “I have 24 students in my class.” We say “I have 24 kids in my class.” We see the students as our own children!

AB: What tradition do you love at VOE?

GS; Every staff meeting, Mr. Henry starts off with “Let’s start with celebrations!” This is a time we can share the celebrations in our personal lives. Our staff is a family, and we celebrate with our family.

AB: Why have you stayed 25 years at one school? 

Marcia Looper: The families, community, staff, parents and kids make the atmosphere positive. I love coming to work every single day.
AB: What has changed most in the 25 years that you have been teaching at VOE?

Gloria Seeberger and Jeannette Belt.

Gloria Seeberger
and Jeannette Belt.

ML: We have always had generous parents, but now, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) brings in more money because of fundraising. I love that our PTA serves all students, and all students’ needs are provided for. The PTA is so committed to our school, and that commitment has made our school what it is today.

AB: You created a Wishing Tree that brought the whole school and the community together. Can you tell me about it?

Kimberly Lamb:The original Wishing Tree was created by Vanessa Sabarese of San Francisco, who came to our second annual Wishing Tree and even helped the VOE kids hang their wishes. The Wishing Tree started as a way that VOE could honor Superintendant Dr. Duncan Klussmann’s retirement and his T-2-4 program (technical school, two-year college or four-year college).

AB: What were the kids’ reactions to the Wishing Tree?

KL: The kids loved it! This project was so different than anything they have ever done at school. The first Wishing Tree asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The kids took ownership of the tree, and now, it will be a yearly tradition.