As the semester comes to a close many of Eastwood's students and staff are looking forward to winter break, and nights spent with family and a good cup of joe. While we say goodbye to 2016 we will also be saying farewell to one Eastwood's most beloved and devoted teachers: Carol Stephens.
Having worked as a teacher for 44 years, for Ysleta Independent School District for 43 years, and at Eastwood for 23 years, one would be hard pressed to find a teacher more experienced, and more dedicated than Stephens.
Principal Armenia Smith said that Stephens will be sorely missed by many among the Eastwood family, and that she will always cherish the time they spent working together.
"Carol and I met each other years ago when she was a mathematics teacher at Valley View," Smith said. "When I came to Eastwood 6 years ago, I was delighted to renew our relationship. As I say farewell, I want her to remember that we will miss her a lot for all that she taught us and that we won't ever forget her in our hearts, farewell. We love you."
For Stephens, it was all about the students. Senior Daniella Uribarri was fortunate enough to have Stephens as a geometry teacher, and said that Stephens was always willing to put in the extra time to help a student out, and had a way of putting students at ease.
"Mrs. Stephens was super nice and was always telling us stories about her family," Uribarri said. "She is such kind person, and always smiling and making jokes. She always helped me out as much as she could because I was absent a lot for golf."
Robert Fierro said that Stephens was all anyone could ask for in a teacher and that her main focus was always helping the students.
"She was a fantastic teacher," Fierro said. "She was very concerned about making sure the students understood the material. She wanted to make sure they knew how to do things in the real world with math."
Senior Christian Iglesias said that Stephens gave her students everything she had, and that there's nothing she wouldn't have done to help someone out.
"Mrs. Stephens always gave her students the tools and opportunities needed to pass her class but she did so in a loving manner," Iglesias said. "She was always invested in her students and she put herself into everything she did."
Dana Molden said that she's known Stephens for nearly two decades, and that when she was a new teacher Stephens guidance and kindness was irreplaceable.
"I've known Carol for 16 years, since I started, and she's been here the whole time with me," Molden said. "When I first got here we were both floating, because she had just come back to teaching, and at the time we didn't have mentors. She just took it upon herself to be my mentor -- she gave me advice, she gave me supplies, she gave me all kinds of things."
Fierro said that Stephens had always made education a priority and always made the effort to get students involved in their own education.
"She always had stories about games she would play, in essence, with her father but that she would always learn the math behind the games," Fierro said. "Her father made sure she did that. He was never formally educated but he wanted her to be educated."
Junior Gabriel Loya said that he will remember how much Stephens cared for her students and how kind she was to everyone who entered her classroom.
"Mrs. Stephens was one of the sweetest teachers I've ever had," Loya said. "I'm truly sad that Mrs. Stephens is leaving us. I will always miss her stories, her kindness, and her laugh."
Molden said there's not one poor thing to be said about Stephens, and that it has been one of her greatest joys working with such a loving and giving person.
"She's one of those people who gives of herself unconditionally," Molden said. "She just wants to help kids, she wants to help people. She wants you to feel special, and she always goes out of her way, for colleagues and kids. There's not a single thing I can say about Mrs. Stephens without the utmost respect. She's a phenomenal teacher and anyone whose had her will attest to that. She's amazing, she's an amazing human being."
Jonathan Stovall had Mrs. Stephens as a math teacher over 40 years ago. He recalls the class being as rowdy and troublesome as any 7th grade math class -- if not worse. Stovall said that when he mentioned the class, and a particular student, to Stephens a few years back, she remembered the student and shared with him details of this students down trodden life, that changed his perception of not only his former classmate, but her as well.
"Mrs. Stephens was my math teacher in the 7th grade, which was 42 years ago," Stovall said. "One day several years ago, I asked her if she remembered this crazy kid back then who used to give her trouble. He was uncontrollable and foul-mouthed and had these awful violent outbursts. She smiled and said his name, as if it had been yesterday. Then she told me his whole story, how he was an orphan, and that he’d been found as an abandoned toddler eating garbage in an alley. I remembered being angry that she wasn’t harder on him back then, but then I realized what a great teacher and person she was then and now, and that all these years later she could remember his name and his story, after all the thousands of kids who had come through her classes."
Molden said that with the retirement of Stephens, the soul of Eastwood will be a little less vibrant.
"You lose a veteran teacher like that and you always feel a loss, the school always feels like something is missing," Molden said. "I know that, personally, part of my heart will be empty."