After completing her undergraduate degree, Bonnie Becken went to work as a teacher at the same elementary school she had attended as a child growing up in Burbank.
The same principal still led the school, and all seven of the teachers who taught her were there too.
“Some people might say that’s a bad thing. I found it to be great because this was my family,” Becken said.
That sort of stability among teaching staff and administration is much more unusual today. Now, “it’s a revolving door,” said Becken, who retired in 2001 after 37 years of teaching.
She’s part of a group that is investing in teachers and encouraging them to stay in the profession by awarding scholarships and offering support.
The Glendale division of the California Retired Teachers Association, or CalRTA, funded eight scholarships for students in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education Credential Program at California State University, Northridge. The Glendale group includes former educators who are from Burbank, Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge.
“We have been public school teachers, and we believe in that system,” Becken said. “And so we want our scholarships to go to public school teachers who will be teaching kindergarten through 12th grade.”
The organization has typically funded three scholarships a year at CSUN. In 2022, it increased the number to four a year for two years, and thanks to the Matador Match Challenge, an initiative from the CSUN Foundation that matched eligible gifts dollar-for-dollar, the total number of awards was doubled to eight a year, for 16 total scholarship awards. The group also received a generous donation from a benefactor that allowed them to increase the award amounts, said Becken, who is the chapter’s scholarship coordinator.
The awardees include Bruce Monical, who was a studio engineer at Capitol Records for 17 years. He switched careers after being laid off in 2012.
Monical had a storied career as a studio engineer, a recording engineer, and a musician, working with artists such as Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, and, he said, every member of The Beatles except John Lennon. He even scored films and TV shows.
After he was laid off, Monical began teaching music classes for K-12 students. He also focused on his own education, earning multiple associate degrees as well as a bachelor’s degree and a master’s. At CSUN, he’s completing a secondary teacher credentialing program in music.
“I enjoy helping people. It gives me great joy to see students when they learn a concept, and they finally get it, and a lightbulb goes off in their head,” he said.
The CalRTA scholarship “meant a lot to me because it’s been financially very difficult,” he said. He’s the father of three children — two teenage sons he’s raising alone and an adult daughter.
It can be a struggle for teachers to complete the rigorous full-time credentialing program while balancing other responsibilities.
“They either have to have quite a bit of money, maybe not so much to pay the cost of schooling, but just to keep a roof over their head and feed themselves while they are doing that year of student teaching,” Becken said. “And that’s why a lot of young people these days can’t go into teaching. Because they just don’t have the means.”
After granting the scholarships and notifying the awardees, the retired teachers stay in contact with them to offer support and guidance, Becken said. Maybe more than the money, the support matters, she said.
She said scholarship winners have told her how much the recognition matters.
“They just didn’t realize they had somebody out there cheering them on,” Becken said, “and that really meant a lot to them to know that they weren’t alone in doing this very difficult job.”
To contribute to the CalRTA Foothill Scholarship Fund, or to create a fund of your own, please contact the CSUN Office of Development at (818) 677-2786 or email@example.com.