Louise McFadden gets a twinkle in her eye when she talks about her students.
That excitement comes from serving Nevada Union High School as an English teacher for more than 30 years — service that came to an end when McFadden retired in June.
“The hardest thing about retiring is that I will so miss those kids,” McFadden, 60, said. “I have loved being a teacher. I got to work with very inspiring people, and that is an excellent high school. It was the best thing I ever did.”
McFadden’s journey as an educator began when she was just 10, helping her older sister, a teacher in Weaverville, prepare her classroom by decorating bulletin boards, arranging science tables and stacking new books.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s a great job,’” McFadden said. “It was fun and dynamic and creative, and not boring. So for me teaching was a natural, and my big sister really inspired me.”
Years later, McFadden worked as a camp counselor for junior high children, helping them put together a camp-wide newspaper. After short teaching stints in Napa Valley and Stockton, McFadden, originally from the Bay Area, and her husband decided to move to Nevada County because of the fond childhood summer camp memories McFadden had of the area.
“We were young, dumb and in love,” McFadden said. “So we moved here with no jobs. I worked at Camp Gold Hollow and I taught swimming and canoeing. My husband worked in Auburn, and we lived and camped for a whole year to bank our salaries.”
In 1981, McFadden began working as an English teacher at NU, and has since taught all levels of English, from remedial to honors classes.
McFadden jumped right into the NU community, volunteering as a supporter for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams, along with multiple NU proms and balls, helping “string crepe paper like a master.”
“I started a debate team and the students used to come to my house and practice,” McFadden said.
“They would take turns hanging out with my children while we were practicing. So Nevada Union became part of our home, and being able to blend my two worlds is what made the two worlds work.”
NU Athletic Director Jeff Dellis said McFadden was such a great supporter of the school’s sports teams that she would often travel with them to away games. In the classroom, McFadden was just as dedicated.
“It was amazing how much she loved them and how much they loved her,” Dellis said. “You walked into her class and it would be deathly quiet when she spoke. When kids were told to read, they read. When they were told to engage, they would engage with one another and they would engage with her. Kids did not want to disappoint her. She is just larger then life.”
When McFadden felt her students needed more specialized skills and knowledge, she helped to establish the NU Partnership Academy, which focuses on telecommunications and business programs.
“She’s been a leader with that group of students, and just a tremendously positive force with our district for many, many years,” District Superintendent Louise Johnson said.
As a teacher with the academy, McFadden had one mantra she expected every teacher to live by — if it was your child, what would you do?
“That never failed. Because it’s not the easiest path you would take to do the right thing,” McFadden said. “If it was your child, you would do whatever it took. And so I got to work with people who treated students like they were their own.”
As a faculty member McFadden has left a legacy as well.
“When she was pregnant with her first child, she went to the superintendent at that time and said there needed to be more maternity leave,” district Assistant Superintendent Trish Dellis said.
“I benefited from that all these years later, because she really felt it was important. She fought for that. She was a pioneer.”
Through the years, McFadden said she has weathered more than eight different educational reforms.
“But what’s never changed are the kids,” McFadden said. “I think you’re born into teaching, I think you don’t just take classes and become a teacher. You’re born to do it well. And I think it was in my blood. And I hope it’s in the blood of my children. I hope that they make important contributions.”
McFadden’s son works as a physical education teacher and football coach at River Valley High School in Yuba City, and her daughter, Robin Black, works as a teacher at the language immersion school, Bell Hill Academy.
When Black gave birth to McFadden’s granddaughter, Lyla, several months ago, McFadden knew it was time to retire and move on.
“My last day of class, the kids made a video and did a big surprise party for me,” McFadden said.
“They said loving things. So that’s a great legacy and I feel like I’ve given my all, and now, there’s Lyla.”
McFadden said she will spend much of her time as a retiree traveling with her husband and taking care of her granddaughter, but she will never forget her time at NU.
“I got to live this magic life,” McFadden said. “And I’d like to tell my students who are going to be seniors that I want them to do a great job and make me so proud of them. And all the students I had through the years, know that I’ve kept them in my heart and I want them to do well and speak well, and plant their flag.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
“I got to live this magic life.”
retired Nevada Union teacher