Beloved San Bernardino Teacher Honored by Former Students

It was a special day at one San Bernardino elementary school.

A group of former students who attended California School in the 1970s returned to their alma mater Friday to say thank you to a beloved teacher.

“I flew all the way from Georgia to be here so that’s how important this is to me,” said former student Pamela Williams.

Byron Stringer and some of his classmates organized the special reunion to honor Willie Maude James, who they say was instrumental in their success.

“She inspired us to greatness,” said Stringer. “She told us that we can believe in ourselves; she told us to love who we are; she told us that we can do great and wonderful things. And we believed her.”

There were hugs, and for many… tears.

“I am full of love for the students here and I’m overjoyed for what’s going on right now,” said James.

She taught for 34 years in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, before retiring in 1994.

When asked if it was easy teaching for all those years, James laughed.

She admits there were challenges, “but through it all, we survived and we’re here today.”

During an assembly Friday at the school — now Salinas Creative Arts Elementary — James was praised for her years of service and “outstanding contributions to the community.”

The appreciation was overwhelming.

“And I’ve been thankful to my mom and dad, and I don’t want to cry, but the community I grew up in. It was just a loving community,” said James.

The retired elementary school teacher still teaches Sunday school at a local church.

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