Is there a teacher from your high school days that made a big impression on you? Someone who helped you develop important skills that you still use to this day?

For me, that person was my favorite teacher, Ms. Joanne Poloni. She was funny, friendly, engaging and always encouraging to me. She made me feel important, valued… and well, liked.  I really enjoyed her English class and she gave us writing tools and skills that I use in the workplace every day.  Who knew I’d one day be working in a job that required so much writing of me?!

I had the gift of re-connecting with Ms. Poloni during the Chamber’s Principal for the Day event on March 13, at St. Joseph High School, my old stomping grounds (’85, we will survive!).

It’s been a long time since my last campus visit and things have really changed!  Two beautiful murals, Christ the Teacher and the Madonna and Child adorn the walls. There has been beautification, expansion and renovation all over campus.  My favorite upgrade being what I call ‘serenity spots’ – places set up for students to take a break, sit out in the sunshine and enjoy a quiet moment.  What a generous and thoughtful gift from the administration, to design such a peaceful campus for the students.  I had the opportunity to walk with the students in the hallways and peek into classrooms. The students look happy to be there and the teachers were so accommodating when we stopped in to say hello. Awesome to see what the students are up to and so happy to see artwork in so many of the classrooms.

The gym named for the principal of my day, Father Charles Hofshulte is gorgeous! There is a café area in the front section of the gym where parents and students can sit and enjoy coffees and snacks during games while watching the game through a huge plate glass window. During school, it provides a shady respite in which to do homework or sit quietly with friends.  The chapel has been completely redone and it too, is lovely and a peaceful place to attend Mass and Exposition of the Holy Sacrament.

The teachers and the administration are people of service, following the Gospel’s values. They treat their jobs at the school as a vocation and seek to serve the students and their families. This compassionate and caring attitude is reflected in the smiles and attitudes of the students and evident in all the staff members who shared their time with me during my visit.

High school can be hard, but spending your day on a beautiful campus with friendly and helpful teachers and administrators can make all the difference – and does.  The high school years can be tough, but being in an environment where you are cared for and nurtured makes a huge impression.

If you haven’t been on campus for some time, I invite you to call Ms. Poloni to request a tour.  Seeing the campus as an adult brought back a lot of memories.  Doesn’t seem like it’s been almost 30 years (gulp!).  Many thanks for a wonderful visit and thank you, Ms. Poloni, for being such a great teacher and now, principal! See you next year, if not sooner!

Submitted by Gina Keough, VCB Manager

Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau

(805) 925-2403, ext. 814