VICTORVILLE – More than just a principal, Kathy Lento has been an inspiration, mentor, and support to numerous students who walked through the Options for Youth (OFY) doors. Her encouraging and compassionate spirit makes it additionally difficult to see her off as her January 27, 2017, retirement approaches. – More than just a principal, Kathy Lento has been an inspiration, mentor, and support to numerous students who walked through the Options for Youth (OFY) doors. Her encouraging and compassionate spirit makes it additionally difficult to see her off as her January 27, 2017, retirement approaches.
Lento’s retirement comes after being an educator for 56 years in the Victor Valley area. “I would like to spend more time with my daughter’s family and grandchildren who live in Texas,” she said. “It’s time for me to be a grandma to those children.” OFY officials said that Lento will be retiring just two months prior to her 78th birthday.
Lento began her career in education in 1961, when she began teaching Spanish at Victor Valley Junior High. The 22-year-old University of Redlands did not know where her career path would lead, but she eventually taught Spanish, Physical Education and served as a counselor at Apple Valley Middle School and Apple Valley High School. Lento returned to Victor Valley Junior High as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, for 18 years. She retired in 2002, but returned to work only 6 months later.
“I was asked to be the interim area director for Options for Youth in the Victor Valley,” she explained. “Back then, we were just one of two charter schools in the area. I applied for the permanent position because I really liked Options and what it did and stood for. You have to take the time to work with students and their families.You don’t just give them an F and let them go.”
OFY officials said that during her 15-year tenure, Options saw state scores steadily increase as the charter school transitioned from an independent studies program to a blended program, adding small classrooms and online studies.“We have performed on par with similar schools in the district, and this is with students who had not been succeeding,” Lento said. That’s the beauty of Options. We fill a need that may not be available in a traditional school. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to education.”
Known for her compassion, OFY staff and students recall her at several points holding back tears while speaking about the difficulties some students faced. “You have been a mother to us all,” Ray Banaag commented at the Options 2016 staff Christmas party, as he blinked back tears. The compassion did not stop with the students, Assistant Principal Jacob Kaaekuahiwi recalled when he was first hired as the school counselor. “She was asking me what I needed,” he recalled. “Then she stopped and said, ‘I know what he needs. He needs a little TLC.’ She told the other counselor to buy me some office supplies and then she took me out to The Olive Garden. It brought tears to my eyes.”Lento has been a builder of people, Kaaekuahiwi added, encouraging staff members to work through their mistakes and grow.
“Showing compassion and acceptance is key to being a successful teacher,” said Lento. “You have to take that kid when he comes to you, learn who he is, accept him for the way he is, and somehow inspire him so he has the desire to improve and achieve – to have the audacity to think that he can have a better life.”
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