By Steven Adamo
Child Development instructor Martha Gayton will join her husband Joseph Gayton in retirement this semester after 40 years at East Los Angeles College.
“I gave him two years of his coffee and his donut and now it’s my turn,” said Gayton with a laugh. Joseph became a teacher’s assistant at East Los Angeles College in 1975 and later became a teacher.
The couple started dating in 1984, got married and worked together for over thirty years in the Child Development Center. “We’re not going to live high on the hog, but we have enough to travel and do the things we were unable to do,” said Gayton, referring to her retirement plans with her husband.
Gayton’s favorite activity is reading to the children at the center. Over the years she has worked toward reading in a way that makes it fun for the children.
“I want the children to have a love of reading because if you’re a good reader, you’re going to do well in everything — even math,” Gayton said.
Reading and writing is a big part of Gayton’s activities with the kids. To prepare these young children for kindergarten, she encourages them to write freely and not to worry too much on being wrong. She refers to this portion of the learning process as “inventive spelling” which puts the focus on correct phonetics rather than incorrect spelling.
Subjects like art and science also work their way into the activities. Earlier in the year, the children used colored sand among many other mediums to create the planets of the solar system.
The activity is a way for the children to express themselves through different textures and colors. Gayton began instructing at the center when it was originally located in the old bungalows by parking lot structure four.
The Child Development Center moved in 2000, where Gayton worked with others in the Child Development Department to design the new building.
They wanted an environment that could be navigated easily by children and an efficient layout for teachers. In the recess area outside, the playground is split into three sections based loosely on age.
The section intended for the youngest children is shaded by trees with age appropriate playground equipment. On the other side of the yard, the playground equipment is larger and the two sections are joined by a bike path used by children of all ages. According to Gayton, this playground setup is ideal because it allows children to enjoy recess at their own pace.
“Over the years we’ve found that some children will gravitate to where they want to go. Even though some may be younger, we allow them to challenge themselves with the older equipment. Some of the older children still want to go back and sit in a quiet, shady spot,” said Gayton.
Many generations of people have come through Gayton’s classroom.
“We’ve had adults come back with their children and more recently their grandchildren,” said Gayton.
This is good news to Gayton because for her it means that the parents have good things to say about the center.
Gayton’s retirement comes just as her and the rest of the child development staff prepare for graduation ceremony. Every two years, 24 children would be assigned to her group, all around the age of two and a half.
They remained in her class until they turn five and graduate to kindergarten. “During those two years you become a family. You really care for each other and the whole atmosphere is awesome,” said Gayton.
Gayton’s former student Anastasia Landeros still recalls attending her preschool class. “I think it speaks volumes to how sweet of a lady she is that I still remember her 25 years later,” Landeros said.
Landeros recalls visiting her former teacher when she first began to attend ELAC and it was nice to know she still remembered her.