Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Lawton
After 27 years of teaching and developing an AP program, Spanish teacher Guadalupe Lawton is saying goodbye to Fullerton High School.
Lawton began teaching at age 17 with a part time job in education. She began her college education with a major in computer science information.
“I took several courses on computer science until I realized it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I didn’t realize that until after I had taken three courses and learned a little bit of coding. For me, there’s no joy in that. I don’t get any human feedback.”
She went from community college to Cal State Fullerton to Azusa Pacific University to complete her education major. She developed a love for teaching, working with students, and especially helping them reach an “Aha!” moment when they begin to understand the work.
Lawton describes herself as lucky to have been given an opportunity to teach, even while in college. “Since an early age, I realized that I did like teaching. During my student teaching year, I hadn’t even finished my observation time when I got a job offer. I’ll value that for the rest of my life.”
She moved from teaching college courses to working with high schoolers. “I knew I couldn’t teach elementary school because they don’t have the artistic ability that is needed. I tried middle school but I couldn’t do it. Then I taught college level, but my heart was in teaching high school students.”
When she began teaching at FUHS, Lawton pushed for the development of an Advanced Placement program. With the help of her colleagues, she began the AP Spanish class, which offered further education to students who were already fluent in Spanish or wanted to understand the language further.
Lawton knew right away that she wanted to be a Spanish teacher. “I am always inclined to languages,” she said. “I had to learn English and I know how difficult it was.”
Lawton grew up in Mexico and lived there until she was 15, when she and her family immigrated to the United States. She attended La Habra High School, where she learned English.
“As an immigrant,” Lawton shares, “I am very proud of my parents and grateful to the United States for providing me the multiple opportunities which have allowed me to retire today. Like many immigrants, my father and mother worked very hard to provide their children a better life.”
Lawton recalls her first day teaching and the nerves she felt coming into the classroom.
“My first year of teaching, I doubted myself a little bit because it was very difficult. I kept telling myself, ‘I can do this, I can do this. If I can do this, I can do anything.’ That’s the energy I got from that.”
Since her first day, “Yes, we can” has been Lawton’s motivational phrase for teaching. There is even a poster on her classroom wall with the phrase in Spanish, “¡Sí, se puede!”
This motivation has got her through some of her hardest years of teaching, when a breast cancer diagnosis took her out of the classroom for treatment.
“Right after I had my second child, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Lawton said.
Lawton went through chemotherapy and radiation therapy to get back on track. “I tried, but I was not able to work. I just couldn’t do it. It was very difficult. I was so afraid of losing my job.”
When she was given the opportunity to, Lawton was back in her classroom. She recalls her students’ reaction to her return.
“I remember some of my students saying, ‘What are you doing here?’ It was probably one of the most difficult times in my life but I had a lot of support,” Lawton recalls.
Principal Laura Rubio is grateful for Lawton’s dedication.
“She is one of the most humble and professional teachers I have had the pleasure to work with,” Rubio said. “At her core she cares about our students and their well being.”
Though a bittersweet departure, Lawton looks forward to her retirement. “I plan to sleep late, since I won’t have to get up at 4:30 to meet students at 6. I look forward to reading books, some travel, gardening, boating with my husband and not having to treat Sunday night as a ‘school night.’”
Getting to participate in some of her favorite activities is another highlight for her. Lawton enjoys parachuting, ziplining, boating, driving fast cars, and everything that gives her a rush of excitement.
“I enjoy traveling,” said Lawton, who can’t wait for the opportunity to travel more after retirement. “I’ve been to Brazil, England, Hawaii, most of the Mexican states, and New York, Florida, and Arizona.”
Lawton has always prioritized her students and aims to make a positive impact in their lives. “I wish you all the best, recommend that you read, read, read and take advantage of all the opportunities the school has to offer, and to have fun along the way.”