Recognizing Two Recent Blair Teacher Retirees
We appreciate our Blair teachers, and have been blessed that many stay at Blair year after year, sometimes even spending their entire career at Blair.
In 2020, two longtime teachers retired from Blair: Ms. Magdalena Reyes-Rothner and First Sergeant (1SG) Ervin Turner. Ms. Reyes-Rothner most recently taught 11th Grade English and IB Diploma Programme course English (Higher Level) for 11th and 12th graders. 1SG Turner was our JROTC Senior Instructor.
Ms. Magdalena Reyes-Rothner came to Blair in 2004. She began teaching high school English to continue her love of discussing literature, and because she felt students could learn so much about themselves, and about their place in the world, through literature. Some of her favorites in teaching include William Faulkner’s Light in August, and the non-fiction The New Jim Crow, by Michele Alexander. To her own words, she “thrived on novel discussions," especially student presentations analyzing an excerpt. And students loved receiving her praise for excellence.
Many students have said her classes were their best preparation for college. With her detailed, personal recommendation letters, Reyes was also instrumental in many college admissions! She always set a professional tone, not using first names in class, but referring to her students by last name as Ms. and Mr.
Class discussions included current events and societal issues, and she frequently reminded students, “you will be out in the real world in one year; you will be a fully-fledged, voting citizen, so you will have to sort these issues out for yourselves.” She told them thinking, speaking out, asking questions, and listening to the discussions would help them do just that, and that is what her students learned to do. Reyes impressed upon her students that they have a voice on how our society should operate.
Retirement plans to travel the world are on hold, and she is awaiting courts resuming regular business so she can serve as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children wards of the court, and as a grand juror.
Photo at left: Ms. Reyes-Rothner with one of her students, at a regional oratory contest
First Sergeant Ervin Turner spent 24 years in the U.S. Army and then became an instructor in Blair’s Army JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) in 1999. In 2019 he was able to see the JROTC facilities finally get remodeled, after enduring many difficulties including years and years of no classroom air conditioning! Blair’s JROTC program is thriving, while the other JROTC programs in PUSD have all closed.
1SG Turner's desire has been to give Blair cadets purpose and direction. He always remembers how a key question from bosses at his high school after-school job influenced him. Turner admits he was a bully, and one day his bosses asked, “Turner, you going to be a misfit, and a druggie, like your older brother, or are you going to do something with your life?” Two weeks later he joined the Army at 18. He is modest about recognition he received during his Army career, but one of his assignments was guarding Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, at Spandau prison in Berlin.
1SG was and is proud of how JROTC can make students well-rounded, can build character, and prepares cadets for life’s challenges. A former cadet who recently graduated UCLA says, “He always told me I was better than I gave myself credit for, and continued to push me past my comfort zone so I credit him for the confidence I have today.” Cadets say he was always around to talk, and they knew he always wanted the best for all his students. Frequently heard advice from 1SG: to girls, career first then family; to boys, be a man and make something for yourself and family.
Besides JROTC, 1SG also was heavily involved in school emergency preparedness (including rescue, fire and lockdown plans), and was a ready volunteer for events such as Preview Day and campus beautification. In recent years he also served as one of the Athletic Directors and worked hard at improving athletic finances. He spoke often before the School Board on behalf of Blair and JROTC.
In retirement, without his grueling schedule serving in the community with the cadets, and no longer commuting long-distance to Blair, 1SG Turner plans to spend more time with his wife, play golf, and remodel his house, which is located in the mountains. He is also going to grow a beard and add more to the 350,000 miles on his Harley. He says he will miss having people come up to him in the middle of him marching in parades with cadets to tell him being a JROTC cadet got them on the right start in life.
Photo above: Blair JROTC led off the 2019 Latino Heritage Parade, with 1SG Turner marching alongside
We wish Ms. Reyes-Rothner and 1SG Turner all the best in this next chapter for each of them!