Vallombrosa 300x100 12.2017

‘Colleagues, students’ are who he’ll miss most, retiring SI teacher says

04 nonagenarians PAGE‘MODEL ELDERS’: The stars wearing these stars and stripes are Sisters of Mercy now enjoying life and ministry into their 90s. The nonagenarians live at Marian Life Care Center in Burlingame and were honored there July 4. Pictured from left are Sister Anita Iddings, RSM; Sister Edith Hurley, RSM; Sister Barbara Cavanaugh, RSM; Sister Rose Davis, RSM; Sister Joanne DeVincenti, RSM, and Sister Redempta Scannell, RSM. Not available for the photo was Sister Sheila Devereux, RSM. “They have in common a love of ice cream and a fierce loyalty to the San Francisco Giants, even in a losing season,” said event organizers Sister Corita Burnham, RSM, and Marian Oaks activities director Debbie Halleran. They call the sisters “model elders.” The sisters’ ministries have included serving in a mission in Peru, teaching, nursing, working with AIDS patients and ministering as a hospital CEO.

August 17, 2017
Tom Burke

04 Bill Isham MUGBill Isham, who retired in June after 41 years teaching English at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, says “I’m not sure what else I would have done with my life.” Bill actually held retirement out for a year having originally named 40 years as the point he would step back. “The truth is, I wasn’t ready to give it up last year,” he said. “I’ve been perfectly happy taking another lap.”

Bill said he planned on teaching as a career as far back as high school in Detroit, Michigan where he grew up, landing a job at a Jesuit high school there right out of college. Bill’s first sight of San Francisco came while attending a coaching clinic here a few years later. He never looked back joining the SI faculty in 1976.

SI helped Bill grow as a teacher, he said. “For the most part, I’ve been left to decide what to teach and how to teach. I was trusted to get the job done. If you can’t become a good teacher at SI, you probably won’t become a good teacher. The environment, resources and support are here, so there’s nobody to blame but yourself if you don’t get it done. I have loved being at SI. This has been my home. These have been good years.”

Bill has taught freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Students throughout the years grew to respect Bill and learned how to write. Each day, freshmen wrote a paragraph. Students, chosen at random, shared their paragraphs with the class. They would be critiqued by classmates word by word.

“I have no special corner on how to teach writing,” Bill said. “All I know is that the more you write, the better you’ll get.”

Bill also coached football and baseball, moderated the Chess Club and the Conservative Students Coalition and served as a member of the President’s Advisory Board. He is a pilot having logged nearly 500 flight hours and 900 landings. Nearly every aerial photo featured in SI publications happened with Bill at the controls of a rented Cessna 172.

He remains unsure about what retirement will bring. “I have been answering bells every school day since kindergarten,” Bill said. “I’m afraid I’ll show up some Tuesday morning and wander into a classroom. I’m used to a certain routine that I’ll miss as well as the people around here, especially my colleagues in the English Department — men and women who have been generous, smart and kind. Besides the students, I’ll miss them the most.”

Special thanks to SI’s Paul Totah for letting me lift text from his farewell piece to Bill in SI’s Genesis magazine for this chapter of Street.

04 SVDPSM.jpeg HALFBREAKING BREAD: At the stove was Lorraine Moriarty, executive director, St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo, with guests Mary Ann and Michael Pietro, Irene and Jim Shannon and Bishop Bill Justice enjoying Lorraine’s homeland New Zealand fare. The Pietro’s were winning bidders for the evening at Lorraine’s home at SVdP’s “Hands and Hearts Making a Difference Dinner” June 23, that raised more than $250,000 for SVdP work with the homeless. Pictured from left with Bishop Bill are Mary Ann and Mike and Irene and Jim. Lorraine by the way not only cooked but took the picture.

04 Zetah MUGHAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mercy Sister Celine Zetah marked a century on July 31 with a special Mass and lunch at Marian Life Care Center in Burlingame where she resides. The reading of an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis highlighted the day. Commendations for Sister Celine came from U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Al Franken who represents Sister Celine’s home state of Minnesota. Mayor of Burlingame Ricardo Ortiz was on hand to give Sister Celine a proclamation from the city in her honor. Sister Celine spends her time writing notes to friends and in prayer, the sisters said. “I make my own cards,” Sister Celine said. “I also spend an hour each day in the chapel praying for friends and staff by name. I don’t really have a lot of extra time these days.” Sister Celine entered religious life Jan. 5, 1944.

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