A half century ago, Richard Nixon was still in the White House, Elvis was rocking his spangly white jumpsuits in Vegas, and NASA launched Skylab, the first manned space station.
Also being launched that year was Sharon Lamb, a Fresno native who, armed with her brand-new Fresno State teaching certificate, was in search of her first teaching job. She initially hadn’t given much thought to applying to Clovis Unified — as a “city” girl from Fresno, she thought of Clovis Unified as “kind of a podunk school district way out in the boonies” — but she submitted her application and then was hired by the district’s founding superintendent, Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, to teach third grade at Jefferson Elementary.
It’s a decision that neither she — nor her thousands of students over the past five decades — has ever regretted. And even after 50 years on the job, Lamb shows no signs of slowing down.
Lamb was honored Friday morning with a surprise ceremony at Red Bank Elementary School in east Clovis, where she has taught kindergarten since the school’s opening in 1991.
And The Yearbook Dedicatee Is …
The school’s 800 students gathered on chairs in the amphitheater in the center of the campus to hear principal Amanda Torres talk about Red Bank’s 2022-23 yearbook and the teachers who had helped produce it.
And then Torres told students that the yearbook was being dedicated to a special person: “When you stop and think about the essence of a teacher and the words you would use to describe this year’s yearbook dedicatee, you might hear them described as the epitome of a lifelong learner. From an early age this teacher chose education as a career, and it quickly became their life, a part of their whole being. To this teacher, teaching is more than a job. It is a passion, their true calling, the home for their hearts.”
Torres then identified Lamb as the yearbook’s dedicatee. “Her tight hugs and embrace are all the things that people have come to cherish about Ms. Lamb. Anyone who has had the honor of working with her has had the honor of working with a remarkable educator. As she celebrates her 50th year in Clovis Unified School District — a celebration no other CUSD employee has ever had the privilege of celebrating — she has no plans in stopping. Red Bank is her home, and this community is her family.”
As Lamb joined Torres at the podium, the students rose from their chairs for a standing ovation. Lamb’s hearty laugh could soon be heard as she professed she was “amazed” to receive the yearbook honor.
“God has led me on a special journey, and he has given me many friends, and many, many children,” said Lamb, surrounded by family members and close friends. “I never had children of my own, but I always said I had a lot of children as I went through the years. And every one of you is special to me.”
Creativity, Enthusiasm, Love for Children
One of those friends is Brenda Campbell, who first got to know Lamb when they were co-teaching at Jefferson Elementary and has remained close with Lamb ever since.
Campbell, who retired nine years ago, said one of the most noteworthy things about Lamb’s teaching is “her creativity. When her husband was alive, Richard helped out in the classroom. And the two, they have an art background, so creative, so enthusiastic, just a love for the children and just, I don’t want to say the task at hand. You could see it, you could feel it, it was palpable, her love for the classroom.”
Lamb has taught several generations of students — including some whose parents Lamb taught earlier in her career — and said they’ve changed somewhat over the past 50 years. Back then she taught some youngsters who arose at 5 a.m. to get their chores done on the farm before coming to school, whereas now her students live in suburban communities that have overtaken the farmland.
Teaching, however, has been pretty much the same for the past 50 years. Curricula and initiatives might come and go, but “wanting to be a teacher is what all these these people want to do. They want to serve. They want to be a teacher. They want to do what’s best for children. So I don’t think that has changed at all,” Lamb said, adding with a laugh, “Nobody’s in it for the money.”
She celebrated her 50-year anniversary earlier this year at an employee recognition ceremony and was given a plaque with an empty space that one day will be filled in with her year of retirement.
That day could still be a long time in coming, Lamb says.
“For some reason, God has given me a great physique, believe it or not. And as long as I am well and I can keep going, I’m going to keep going. I just love what I’m doing,” she told reporters. “I love them (students). They are absolutely hilarious. I love what they say to me every year. They are just fun to be with. And I’m not going to stop until I think I need to stop.”