Tamara Stoddard is a busy woman. She’s usually the one keeping track of everyone and making things happen, working as a preschool teacher at Cole Elementary School. However, on May 13 it was a different story. Instead of running a classroom, Stoddard sat a table chatting with coworkers and their families, enjoying the afternoon at the Clovis Elks Lodge annual Teacher’s Day event.
“It’s amazing,” said Stoddard, about the meal, activities and music. “It’s nice to see the community honor us and appreciate all our hard work.”
This was Stoddard’s first time attending the celebration, but organizers say the Clovis Elks Lodge has been honoring teachers for 31 years. Ken Testa, Teacher’s Day chairperson and a former Clovis Unified administrator, said this year they served their famous tri-tip sandwiches to nearly 200 teachers, school staff and their families.
He says the annual event is well known to Clovis Unified staff, and something both the Elks and teachers look forward to each year.
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“Some of them are here for the first time this year, but many of them come year after year,” said Testa.
This year the Elks extended their invitation to include all school staff, not just teachers. Bus drivers, food service personnel and facilities staff joined teachers at the tables. Testa says it’s the Elk’s way to acknowledge the impact the entire school has on children. “We think everyone at a school is a teacher in some way, and we want to show them our appreciation.”
Mark Gasset, a custodian from Clovis Adult School was one of the support staff who attended for the first time this year. ”This is good, I’m very happy that they did this for us,” he said. He was especially appreciative of the meal. “Love it. Love the food.”
Testa says the original event grew out of an annual “Dia del Maestro” event put on by the Association of Mexican American Educators. “Our lodge got involved 31 years ago, and it just kind of catapulted into what it is today. We continue the tradition in honor of the members who started it way back when.”
Teachers and school staff at this year’s event enjoyed a meal cooked by the Elks and music from the Clovis North High School string quartet. Testa noted that many teachers and staff brought their children and family members along. “We encourage that. We want it to be a celebration for their whole family.”
Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Fran Musetti says the day is an extension of the Elks’ commitment to their community. “All of this helps the community, and that’s what we’re all about. California-Hawaii Elks raise money for scholarships, help our veterans and do everything we can to help our community. That’s what this is about for us.”
Testa adds that his involvement is personal. “This is an important event for me. It’s one of my big priorities. I do it for the kids, and because I was a teacher here in Clovis. I know what this means to them.”
Musetti echoes that devotion to the children and teachers of Clovis, “It’s to thank the teachers for what they do for us. We want to give back to these teachers who help the community through our kids.”