Imperial honors teachers at 2nd Annual Hall of Fame Ceremony



Jerry Johnson thanked his Vice Principal Tracie Gibbs and his secretary for keeping his secret of retirement until the last day of school in June 2013.
Jerry Johnson thanked his Vice Principal Tracie Gibbs and his secretary for keeping his secret of retirement until the last day of school in June 2013.

IMPERIAL – The Imperial Teachers’ Association honored seven educators and an honorary community educator at their second annual Hall of Fame Ceremony Saturday evening May 3, 2014, at the Old Eucalyptus School on West Evan Ewes Highway in El Centro.

The four Hall of Fame inductees and four retirees were honored.

Judy Ralls, who enjoyed her husband’s induction at last year’s inaugural Hall of Fame, became inducted herself. Judy is the longest employed teacher from Ben Hulse, beginning her career in 1968 under the direction of then Principal Macintosh.

She worked under Principal Haney and praised him for being one who trusted his teachers to teach often saying, “You are doing a great job. I’m just going to get out of your way.”

Cheyne Cowne remembers her as a very fun teacher. Many in her family are educators and were present to share her honor at the dinner event. Colleague and “adopted Ralls daughter” Leann Drewry did introductions.

Edna Clary shared that the Lord opened the door for her to become a teacher giving her a way to raise five children alone. Edna taught first grade in Heber in an open classroom which meant the walls separating her class from others simply were not there.

She managed the primary media center in the days prior to computers and taught a combo class “outside the fence” and inferred that term meant just that.

Clary joined the Ben Hulse staff as a kindergarten teacher when classes had 32-plus students. She felt that kinder was a place to make a difference in a child’s life, “to give them a great start to love school.”

All five of her children earned a top slot in their graduating classes and have returned to the Valley to honor their teacher-mom. They include Dr. Cynda Clary – Dean at Oklahoma State University, Dr. Erik Clary – small animal surgeon and professor in Christian ethics, Dr. Bryan Clary – a surgeon at Duke University, Betty Trimm – physical therapist in Brawley, and Sandra Clary – an official with Bridge Street Properties in Virginia.

Edna admonished us to “continue to learn from your children and love the people that you have entrusted” to teach them. All laughed when she said that she truly liked hearing the bells, fire drills, and even the screams on the playground. Colleague Shelly Deal introduced Edna.

Retired teacher Evelyn Shipman honored Principal Bob Haney posthumously, with his wife Sue Haney accepting the engraved plaque. Evelyn recalled another era when she held up her former principal’s “board of education” paddle. Queried if it was actually used, at least one in the audience said, “Yes!”

Bob never missed a football game, or band event. He loved the children under his care and supported his teachers to do their very best, according to his wife.

IUSD Board member Abdul Mohamed gave the Special Community Award to eighty-eight year old Larry Shimamoto who never earned a college degree nor a teaching credential, but was a mentor to many.

Shimamoto farmed locally with his father until age fifteen when the family was sent to an internment camp during the War. They returned to farm, and Larry served honorable in the Korean War for the same government that had interred him. This brought applause from the all present.

Shimamoto was instrumental in starting the Quarterback Club along and the concession stand, which raises money for the sports award programs that he also helped to start. His wife Irene of fifty-eight years was called up as Mohamed gave the award saying this was “an honest man, sincere, full of integrity, and a friend.”

Pauline Downs worked seven years as a special education teacher serving three schools: Frank Wright, Ben Hulse and Holbrook. Colleague Jeanne Thomas claimed many students benefited from “a Pauline adjustment.”

She was loved by her students and colleagues at each site and will be missed having served in such a special capacity with compassion and skill.

Virginia Martinez wore many hats teaching migrant education, Title I, and serving as special reading project teacher.

Three colleagues, Christina Santos, Maria Terriquez, and Carla Paramo shared memories particularly of their team effort to complete a Masters Degree, committing to be there through thick and thin.

Virginia had learned early to be a fighter and to persevere having come from a migrant family, even working in the fields herself. She credits her family with instilling her with the ethics of hard work, respect of individuals, and love of family.

Former Principal Jerry Johnson who retired in the last day of school in June of 2013 did not escape notice and was included this year. Traci Gibbs did the introduction.

Thirty-three years as an educator included six at I.H.S. and ten at Ben Hulse. He taught Spanish having learned the language during two years in the Peace Corps in Guatemala. He also taught English, all the science classes, and was a counselor.

Johnson’s father had passed away about the age he is now, and recalling the recent loss of Otto Wurzbach, Johnson decided, “It was time.”

He raises rabbits and chickens now, gardens, and travels. Yet it is hard to stop an educator from educating. He has been subbing and is currently employed by the Brawley school district.

Retiree Barbara Stensgard was introduced byI.H.S. administrator Victor Torres, calling her a Christian who held high values and ethics for her students.

Barbara began on the MaKah Indian Reservation in the state of Washington, raising her three children on her own.

She now ends eleven years as Imperial High’s Foods Production and Interior Design teacher. Her students prepared 400 meals each lunch last year. “I love seeing kids being productive, and paying their way through life.”

Barbara brought the right amount of laughter to close the ceremony when she admonished all to not allow excuses in reaching goals and dreams. She recently returned from the Biggest Loser Malibu Camp where she was the oldest, albeit last as well, to cross the finish line, but she did it.

Gina Cosio and Willie Estes emceed the event organized this year by Hall of Fame Committee president Yvonne Keaton. Cosio served as president at last year’s inaugural event. Monies earned go for student scholarships.




  1. The Willie Estes mentioned in this article, is he the same one that is a high school teacher in El Centro and basesball coach. If yes can you provide any contact information to me, Bill Denny at or 408-431-5303. I would be his second cousin. Thanks.

    • Contact Imperial High School to locate Willie Estes. He is a history teacher and baseball coach there. Hope this helps.

  2. What a fabulous article! You truly brought the spirit of the event to life. It was a great night to honor some great people who have done so much for our community and are so deserving of our praises. Thank you for attending and sharing through your words and photos!

  3. And what a wonderful evening it was! Thank you to everyone who put together this recognition event, and congratulations to all the inductees, retirees, and their families. Teaching is a family affair, that’s for sure. And of course… Go Big Red!

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