DOWNEY – Mrs. Shirley Stewart is known around the Warren High School campus as “kind-hearted,” “full of energy,” and “genuinely loving” by faculty, students, and just about anyone else who gets to know her. Beginning her successful career as a DUSD teacher in 1966, this year marks Mrs. Stewart’s 50th year teaching.
Mrs. Stewart grew up in Downey and returned back to her hometown after graduating UCLA and Cal State Long Beach with an English/speech major and mathematics minor. She soon became a teacher at Warren High School and has thoroughly enjoyed her career ever since.
“This whole time, the kids haven’t really changed. Downey has changed, but the city has always had value in education, in community involvement, and in trying to make itself a better place," Mrs. Stewart commented. "Of course, lots of things have changed, but not these values."
She has not only taught English, but has also taught other classes and gotten involved in countless organizations, boards, and on-campus clubs over the years.
Some of the multiple clubs she advises for this year include SkillsUSA, Girls League, Ladies Leadership, California Scholarship Federation, Glee Club, Speech and Debate Club, Send for C, and more. Mrs. Stewart has been around long enough to see the establishment of many of these clubs and has been given the opportunity to see them grow over time.
She was additionally responsible for the Peer Counseling Program which helped students to become better at who they already were. Students would help other students find healthy solutions for their problems.
Prior members of the Peer Counseling Program got in touch with Mrs. Stewart recently and, along with thanking her for the assistance she provided so many years ago, mentioned that they teach their kids the same ethical points they were taught from Mrs. Stewart herself through the program back then.
“You hope in your lifetime you can touch someone’s life and here we were touching their children’s lives. And we didn’t even realize that we were doing that at the time!” Mrs. Stewart exclaimed.
Her hard work does not go anywhere unnoticed. Mrs. Shirley Stewart has been Teacher of the Year for the school district and even named National Teacher of the Year by Cable in the Classroom.
Helping the students to reach their full potential is the reason why Mrs. Stewart chooses to be involved so much. She considers herself to be a “ facilitator by nature” and finds satisfaction in uniting people and ideas. If a situation is given to her and she figures out what a person needs, she will make it work.
One of her many specialties is assisting high school seniors in writing their college essays. The application process can be stressful and confusing; but with the help of Mrs. Stewart, countless students have achieved their perfect essay and been accepted into their dream schools.
“When essays represent who you truly are, you can be comfortable with whether or not you get accepted” Mrs. Stewart said.
Students go to Mrs. Stewart for questions not only about college, but on life in general. She gives kids the motivation they need to pursue their goals in life with determination and ambition.
“I don’t have a day without a special moment. Somebody somewhere moves me. How can anybody be so lucky to be a part of that? I think it's my calling in life,” she added.
In balancing all that she does, she still manages to have had the time to raise her children and grandchildren and spend time with her husband. She values her family more than anything else and has recently made the important decision to spend more time with them.
Fifty is just a number to Mrs. Stewart. Fifty years teaching, 50 years learning, she does not feel as if it has really been that long. Being 71 years old, Mrs. Stewart and her husband, Jim Stewart, have decided to retire at the end of this school year.
“I've always said I teach life. If you teach English, you teach life. It’s because people write about what they experience and what they know and what they think and, that's what life is all about.
"So now I'll go teach and learn about life in a different place," Mrs. Stewart stated with a smile. "We’re just off to a new adventure!”
Valerie Aguilar is a student reporter at Warren High School.