Lending out her green thumb

Retired Davis Magnet School teacher volunteers her time to tend to the school's plants.

November 08, 2011|By Britney Barnes
  • JoAnn Copp, a retired teacher from Davis Magnet School in Costa Mesa, comes back to the school on a regular basis as a volunteer to tend to the campus' flowers and other plants.
JoAnn Copp, a retired teacher from Davis Magnet School… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

COSTA MESA — Some call her the plant lady. She calls herself the Davis Gardner.

JoAnn Copp, a 68-year-old retired teacher, who sports a blue streak in the front of her white-blond hair and nine hoop earrings on her left ear, never stopped working at Davis Magnet School.

She just happened to trade in her dry-erase markers and red pens for a garden hose and shears.

"This is my passion," said Copp, a former special education teacher and longtime Costa Mesa resident. "I love being here at school and I love my plants."

For several days a week during the school year, Copp volunteers to water, pull weeds and prune the plants and flowers around Davis. Copp brought the school's first plants some 15 years ago; now there are nearly 300 potted plants around campus.

She also helps out with testing, dances, book fairs or whenever an extra adult is needed. Copp volunteered more than 2,400 hours last year.


"People do appreciate it, and that's all the pay I need," she said.

Copp, a member of the California Retired Teachers Assn. and Retired Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, is one of the volunteers being celebrated for their service this week during Retired Teachers Week.

The California Retired Teachers Assn.'s Harbor Beach Division 77 — which serves Newport-Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Irvine — calculated that its members volunteered more than 35,000 hours last year at local schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals, senior services, churches and veteran services.

Across the state, association members have volunteered more than 2.3 million hours — services valued at nearly $50 million to the state, according the association.

"Once a teacher, always a teacher," said Davis office assistant Mary Gray. "They always come back."

Mary Zillgitt, 74, another retired teacher volunteering her time at Davis, said she has never really left the profession.

She works in the classroom teaching, testing students and reading to them.

Volunteering allows Zillgitt to concentrate on the best part of the job — actually teaching — without having to deal with everything else that goes along with it.

Davis third-grade teacher Angela Ivey continues to benefit from having Zillgitt, her mentor, help in the classroom. Ivey said it's very beneficial to have Zillgitt's teaching expertise and experience.

Zillgitt doesn't plan on slowing down.

"I'll keep doing it until they cart me away," she said.

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