Farewell to the 'kid whisperer': Longest-serving educator at Oakland Unified retiring after 57 years

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The longest-serving educator at Oakland Unified is retiring next week after 57 years of teaching kids in TK and kindergarten. Arvella Hayden is often called the "kid whisperer" for her ability to reach students.

"My name is Arvella Hayden and I'm a kindergarten teacher at Martin Luther King and I have been teaching with the Oakland Unified School District for 57 years," she proudly told us.

Ms. Hayden moved from Chickasha, Oklahoma to Oakland to teach in 1964.

Kennedy had already been assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most prominent Civil Rights leader, there was Beatle-mania, the moon landing followed a few years later and America was involved in a war that was unpopular.

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"Everybody got respect and it was family -- like in 1964 and parents were more engaged with the children," she recalls.

Hayden was drawn to teaching by her oldest sister, herself an educator.



"She taught me when I was in third grade and I said, my, I want to be a teacher just like my sister," she said.

Through the years, students have come back to thank her for playing an important role in their lives.
"When I didn't know how to write and didn't know how to spell words, she would teach me how, she'd say sound it out or think about it," remembered Al'liyah Collins, now a fifth-grader.

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"We would have families call and request, I want my kid in Ms. Hayden's class, I want Ms. Hayden and we were like hold on we have a waiting list here," said Roma Groves-Waters.

While the conversation around politics is kept far from the classroom, Ms. Hayden says, even the youngest of her students were motivated when Barack Obama became president.

"They were really thrilled and it gave them something to look forward to," she added.

Ms. Hayden says it's time to give other, younger teachers a chance to step into the classroom. But she's not done teaching yet.

"I have plenty of nieces and nephews, I want to educate them. I have children in the community I want to be involved with them and make sure they get a good education and just set the foundation for them," she promised.

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