- Oakland Unified School District
- Employee Profiles
Golden Employee: Arvella Hayden
Cherished Kindergarten Teacher to be Honored for 50+ Years of Service
Ms. Arvella Hayden has been teaching TK and Kindergarten with OUSD since she moved to Oakland in 1964. She is the only employee in the District with over 50 years of service, and will be recognized with the Golden Employee Award at the 2017 Honoring Our Own employee recognition event. In her 53 years with OUSD, Arvella has inspired multiple generations of the youngest students (including the children of former students) at Lafayette Elementary School in West Oakland.
With a soft voice and gentle way of interacting with the children, Arvella sets the tone for her classroom, where her 23 students are remarkably calm and listening intently as each takes a turn reading a written assignment to the group. Arvella is exceptional not only for the number of years she has been teaching (with no sign of slowing down), but because she has only ever wanted to teach kindergarten.
“It’s just a joy to see the children happy,” she said, explaining her motivation. She especially likes the five year old age because “a lot of the kids come in here without any prior experience in school. You’d be surprised at the growth after about half a semester. I like to give them a good start and help them love school from the very beginning.”
Originally from Chickasha, Oklahoma, Arvella is the youngest of seven sisters and five brothers. She credits her parents with instilling her work ethic from a young age. “My father was always working hard at a flour mill, and we had a farm too,” she recalled. “We raised cows and horses, we had 140 acres. My father would take my brothers out there to work on the farm and my mother stayed home with the rest of us.”
Arvella’s oldest sister was the first to attend college, and “she sent the next one to college and passed it on down. We would see her going off to college and bringing books home, so that got me thinking.” Arvella completed her bachelor’s degree in education at Huston–Tillotson University and moved to California to join her sister, Wanda.
Back in 1964, Arvella paid $8 to get a lifetime early childhood education credential. “They don’t even issue those anymore!” she remarked. Other changes she has seen over her career include the introduction of computers and chromebooks - that the kindergarteners use to teach her new things - and the turnover of about ten different principals who she says have “all been really supportive and nice.”
In other ways, things have stayed the same. The strength of the community, her favorite books (Dr. Seuss - “the kids love the rhymes and illustrations”) and the essential needs of her students remain constant. Her secret to teaching for so many years? “When you give the children lots of love, you won’t have any problem with them. I also try to make learning fun because they learn by playing.”
Arvella’s former students often come back back to visit and support in her classroom as parents and volunteers. “One girl came back and told me that I motivated her to become a kindergarten teacher with Oakland public schools,” she recounted. Arvella is well known in West Oakland for driving a “little blue volkswagen”, which people spot and “they always come and talk. That makes me feel good.”
When Arvella goes back to Oklahoma each year, she sees her older brother and sisters who have all retired by now. “They all want me to retire but I tell them ‘No way! I’m not ready.’” Not only is she not ready, but she is proud to say, “I have perfect attendance, I never stay home from work. Oakland public schools have been really good to me for 53 years and I’m not done yet.”
Arvella will receive the Golden Employee Award at the Honoring Our Own employee recognition event on May 16, 2017.