Marlene with her daughter, Naomi Pich, and her granddaughter, Kelsi Pich ’14

Marlene with her daughter, Naomi Pich, and her granddaughter, Kelsi Pich ’14

Beloved Stevenson Teacher Marlene Sato Retires after 40+ Years in Education

As a charter member of Stevenson’s Pre-Kindergarten program, Marlene’s indispensable presence over 14 years on the Carmel Campus has enriched the lives of many Stevenson students. She is also the proud Pirate grandparent of two alumni: granddaughter Kelsi Pich ’14, and grandson Kenny Pich ’17.

[This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.]

RLS: When reflecting on a long and fruitful career in education, what stands out to you?

Marlene Sato: What I really love about teaching are the relationships that I have had with my students, their families, and my colleagues. I have been inspired by so many teachers who really have a passion for the field, who care about these kids, and want to do right by them.

RLS: How has Stevenson impacted your teaching career?

MS: Well, when I was teaching at Carmelo, which is in the Carmel Unified District, it became the preschool for Molly Bozzo’s (current head of Stevenson Middle Division) children. Both of her children were in my class, and when Stevenson decided to create a preschool program, she asked me to be a part of it. I took the job, but I had reservations! I felt at the time that it would be a good thing for me to stay [at Carmelo], but I felt so welcome at Stevenson.

What I really found out about Stevenson is that during my hard times, like when I lost my mom, it was really great to have people who knew me, like Molly, and helped me through those times. It is very much like a family that we have here at Stevenson. I remember Kenny’s eighth-grade graduation when my mother was very old, she was in a wheelchair at the time, and she was late for the graduation. When she got there, they were kind enough to open up the teachers’ section and welcomed her to sit up there. It was just really nice to have people at Stevenson who cared about me and helped me through those times.

RLS: What are you most proud of from your time as a teacher?

MS: The relationships, especially the relationships with kids. For the next 10 years, I will be coming back to help with graduations because there are 10 years of kids I taught who are currently at Stevenson, and some students were saying to me, “Oh no, you won’t be there for my graduation!” I was laughing, and I promised that for the next 10 years, I will make candy leis (Marlene’s specialty) for their graduations. It’s funny, I can still go up to the high school and see some of my old pre-k students, and they will come up to me and give me big hugs. It’s nice that they show me the caring that hopefully I showed to them when they were little.

RLS: What are you going to miss the most about teaching?

MS: I think what I’m gonna miss most is the kids, of course. I think I always wanted a teacher who was there for me, and I just never really had one like that, so I always wanted to be there for the kids I taught. I just want them to have that love of learning and to get excited about it. It’s that magic of being in a classroom with kids who want to learn. There is no other place where that happens except in a classroom. And if you get to be a part of it as a teacher, it’s infectious. I loved teaching with my team in our classroom. I’ll miss co-teaching with them.

RLS: What is next for you?

MS: I have been so engrossed in teaching that I sometimes forgot who I am outside that teacher role, so I am going to enjoy being me. Last year the family went to Japan, and I think we’re going back this year to find the place where my dad and grandparents came from, so I’m kind of excited about that. I’ve always wanted to take the kids to Italy, too, so that is going to be high on the list. I’m going to travel more and enjoy my family.

I feel really blessed to have the career and students I’ve had, and I hope there are students out there who feel the same way about me. You know what they say: they might not remember a thing you taught them in the classroom, but they will always remember if you made them feel welcomed and loved. I hope I did that.

Listen to Marlene’s grandson Kenny’s Spotify profile here.