MORAGA, Calif. - In 1963, when Lola Danielli first started teaching in the small East Bay town of Moraga, it was the year the shocking assassination of President John F. Kennedy took place, the Vietnam War was escalating half a world away, and Beatle-mania was taking hold in America.
Back at Campolindo High School, a spirited, passionate. and engaging teacher was just starting what would be a remarkable career, sharing her love for the Spanish language with students, many who would remember her for decades to come.
Danielli would spend an impressive 58 years teaching at Campolindo which had opened only a year before her arrival. Her tenure would become a record in the Acalanes Union High School District's (AUHSD) 83-year history.
On Saturday, former students, colleagues and school administrators gathered in Moraga for a retirement party to honor a woman whose job as a teacher went beyond a career. It was her life.
The party was organized by former students to mark Danielli's illustrious work in the classroom, which came to a close during the 2021-2022 school year.
About 150 people came out for the celebration. There was music, speeches, and a lot of love for Señorita Danielli.
Group photo during Lola Danielli's retirement party in Moraga, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (Joshua Uziel )
"I was so happy to see so many of my former students, teachers, friends and relatives. That was possibly the nicest party that I have attended. And all just for little ole’ me!" the teacher told KTVU in an email correspondence, adding, "It really was awesome. I don’t remember being that happy for so long!"
Her former students in attendance ranged from those who were among the first of her pupils-- to those who had yet to graduate high school. In some cases, there were two generations of one family who got to call her their teacher.
Joe Field, Campolino Class of 1974, attended the party and was happy to catch up with his high school Spanish instructor. He told KTVU that he was blown away by the fact that Miss Danielli still remembered him after all of these years, and that she pretty much remembered all of her former students who had come out for her tribute.
Field said teaching wasn’t just a vocation for her. "It was her life purpose," he shared, adding, "I know teachers tend to be givers to begin with. But sometimes that giving wears out, and it never did for her."
For Danielli, she said that as much as she was moved by the outpouring of love and all of the organizing it took to throw her her "final hurrah," she said she didn’t know what all the fuss was over her career.
"I really do not understand why all the attendees thought that I had done something special. I didn’t do anything that my teacher colleagues didn’t do - - - I just taught and I loved every minute of it."
Former student Joe Field taking a photo with retired Campolindo High School teacher Lola Danielli in Moraga, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (Joe Field )
On Tuesday, accolades came from Sacramento, with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond saying he planned to tap Danielli as an advisor to help with teacher retention in California.
"Our deep congratulations go to Ms. Danielli for her 58 years of service to the students of Campolindo High School. It takes an incredible amount of dedication to build such a veteran teaching career," Thurmond said in a statement to KTVU. "I am reaching out to Ms. Danielli to congratulate her directly, and I will be inviting her to become an advisor to the California Department of Education, so that we can learn from her as we continue our efforts to improve student achievement and retain teachers. I look forward to learning from Ms. Danielli’s expertise as we seek to increase the number lifelong educators in California’s classrooms," the superintendent added.
On Facebook, as word circulated about the retirement celebration, many expressed how Señorita Danielli had made an impact on their lives. The tributes came from near and far and around the world, with many who had once sat in Miss Danielli's classroom describing her as among the best teachers they’d ever had.
One student, Lee Scott, shared, "Miss Danielli is the reason I worked at the UN and was spokesperson for a Fortune 10 company based in NY handling Latin America. I owe her everything!"
Chrys Lonick Dermody commented, "Miss Danielli was my high school Spanish teacher. I majored in Spanish and had an amazing career as a high school Spanish teacher myself! I retired 3 years ago! There are many of my students that have gone on to be high school Spanish teachers! She has left a long legacy!"
And Francisca Marti wrote, "Best teacher I’ve ever had. Hands down. Tough as nails. But damn, was she good."
Her students would widely agree that she wasn’t an easy teacher, and that was a part of what made her so good.
Field shared, "Miss Danielli demanded a lot from her students. She was not an easy grader and she didn’t take guff from anyone," as he added that a B minus felt like a victory in her class.
Over her nearly six-decade career at Campolindo, Danielli continued to work, unwavering in her dedication to her kids, despite challenging times including the pandemic and when faced with health problems. She even worked through mobility issues, which prompted students and school officials to present her with an electric scooter in 2021 to help her get around campus.
It was a reciprocal act of care for a teacher who never held back on her commitment to her students.
"Over the years, Ms. Danielli taught generations of Campolino graduates in her Spanish classroom, which was adorned with colorful decorations and evidence of her passion for the Spanish language and culture," AUHSD Superintendent John Nickerson said in a statement to KTVU, adding, "She was an asset to the department for many years and legendary in her dedication to teaching, rarely missing a day of school for any reason."
The lead organizer of Saturday's retirement party told KTVU that the community wanted to express its gratitude for all that Danielli had done, saying, "She touched so many lives, and really cared about every single student. She is a remarkable human and impacted us so tremendously in such a positive way."
For the longtime educator, she was the one who was grateful. "I have been so lucky," she said, "to have had so many caring, appreciative and ‘eager to learn’ students throughout these years."
A retirement party was held on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, for Lola Danielli, long-time Campolindo High School teacher in Moraga, Calif. Danielli taught at the school for 58 years. (Joshua Uziel )
Retired Campolindo High School teacher Lola Danielli spent 58 years teaching at the same school, a record for the Acalanes Union High School District. (Joshua Uziel )
Lola Danielli (center) took photos with former students during her retirement party in Moraga, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (Joshua Uziel )