CTA & You

All in the Family: Generations of Educators

Multiple generations take up the teaching profession

“ It was the impact of my mother’s work that influenced me. I saw how much she cared and how much she loved it.” — Amy Quarcelino, Brawley Elementary Teachers Association

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Theresa Quarcelino with her children Lee, president of the Holtville Teachers Association, and Amy, vice president of the Brawley Elementary Teachers Association.

There is perhaps no higher compliment for educators than to have a student go into the teaching profession — unless it is to have their own children follow in their footsteps.

Many CTA members brim with pride when one of their family becomes a teacher. One of those is CTA Board member Gayle Bilek, a middle school music and language arts teacher for 36 years and a member of the Templeton

Teachers Association in San Luis Obispo County. Her son Steven, a member of United Teachers Los Angeles, now teaches math, science and technology at Paul Revere Middle School in Brentwood.

“I didn’t encourage Steven to go into teaching, but he grew up attending Political Involvement Committee meetings with me at CTA State Council,” she says.

Those meetings may have influenced him to study political science and work on campaigns for several years. After that and a stint at being a substitute teacher, Steven Bilek was sold on teaching.

“I think one of the reasons I ended up in the classroom is because my mother and other teachers clearly showed a passion for what they did,” he says. “Feeling the energy in a classroom when my mother was teaching was very exciting for me as a child, and it’s something I try to carry into my own classroom.” Gayle jokes that her son’s entry into teaching may be hereditary. “His dad was an elementary teacher and principal, and his grandfather was a teacher. He is a third-generation male teacher. He’s got the genes.”

She makes a point of going into Steven’s classroom two or three times a year to teach a lesson and watch her son in action. She appreciates getting back in front of students, and she thinks it’s a teaching moment for her son as well. “He can grow from this,” she says. “He watches and participates. At the end of the day, I ask, ‘What did I do that you can carry on?’ For example, he’s amazed that I can look at a kid and they settle down.”

Steven says his mother’s influence goes beyond those days when she joins him in his class. “My mother has offered me a lot of advice over the past two years about being in the classroom, from parents to class management to grading and keeping it all under control. One of the greatest things I have learned is to be excited about every lesson.”

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Steven and Gayle Bilek. Photo: Marc Sternberger

“One of the reasons I ended up in the classroom is because my mother and other teachers clearly showed a passion for what they did.” —Steven Bilek, UTLA

All in all, the experience has not only strengthened the teaching bond between mother and son, it has reinforced Gayle’s decision to return to the classroom when her term on the CTA Board ends. “I want to finish my career as a teacher. It’s been my life, and I love what I’m doing,” she says.

The Quarcelinos

Theresa Quarcelino retired a few years ago from a teaching career that spanned 41 years and took her to Arizona, Colorado, the Navajo Nation, and finally California. She is now supervising student teachers in El Centro through San Diego State University.

She is proud of the fact that her two adult children are teachers. Amy Quarcelino is vice president of the Brawley Elementary Teachers Association and is in her 11th year of teaching middle school English. Lee Quarcelino is president of the Holtville Teachers Association and teaches at Pine Elementary School.

“I never said to my kids, ‘Don’t be a teacher. It’s not worth it,’” Theresa observes. “It is worth it. It’s rewarding on its own. I was very pleased they both decided to go into teaching. I don’t know if they’ll do it for the rest of their lives, but they are happy. They are my pride and joy in what they have accomplished.”

Although Lee was influenced by his mother, he says, it was his sixth-grade teacher who prompted him to go into the profession.

“It had been a difficult year for me, and I would come home crying. But one of my teachers helped me turn the year around. He was an inspiration to me.”

Lee tries to pass that along to his own students.

“Every year, as an icebreaker, I ask the kids what they want to be when they grow up. When I hear that some want to be teachers, I try to help them. Last year, I had three kids in my classroom who want to go into teaching.”

Amy was influenced at an early age when she began “playing school” with her stuffed animals as students.

“My mother would remind me, ‘Don’t forget you have papers to grade.’ She never hid that it was hard,” Amy recalls.

“I think it was the impact of my mother’s work that influenced me. I saw how much she cared and how much she loved it. Both my brother and I decided that’s what we want to do. We want to make a difference in a child’s life.”

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