EDINBURG—Long-time teaching partners and lifelong friends, Mary Longoria and Beverly Richards collectively logged more than 50 years of teaching at St. Joseph Catholic School in Edinburg. The Dynamic Duo, as some recall them, taught pre-K and kinder at the school between 1969 and 1997.
And now, they will be honored for all those years of commitment at the alumni reunion Friday, Nov. 8 as a prelude to the school’s annual TurkeyFest, to be held Saturday, Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the St. Joseph Catholic School grounds.
Friday’s event will be the fifth time the school has held the TurkeyFest-eve reunion, bringing together those who attended St. Joseph school along with faculty, family, and friends of the school.
“We have a broad definition of alumni,” said Kimberly Selber, current school council chair and parent of a 2016 graduate. “We consider all parents whose children attended St. Joseph, along with all faculty, alumni, too. As parents, we spend a lot of time at the school helping the teachers, attending mass with our kids, and putting on events. It’s our school, too.”
The festivities will also celebrate Longoria and Richards that evening with many former students in attendance—some, whose children also attended St. Joseph.
Longoria began what would be a 27-year teaching career at St. Joseph Catholic School in 1969, but not intentionally.
“I enrolled my daughter, Nora, in kindergarten, but they didn’t have a teacher,” said Longoria, who had also attended St. Joseph school. “The principal, Sister Josephina, knew that I had a teaching degree and asked if I would fill in until they had a permanent teacher.”
Six weeks later, Longoria was presented with a teaching contract and never looked back. Longoria and her husband Leo raised their two daughters, Nora Longoria 13th Court of Appeals Justice, Place 2, and Norma Longoria, retired county administrator, in Edinburg.
Richards had a similar experience in 1974 after she her family moved “into town” from Hargill and she enrolled her daughter Carlyn in the fourth grade at St. Joseph. At a subsequent parent meeting, she was asked if she would be interested in teaching pre-K.
“Pre-K was being offered for the first time and the current teacher asked if I would be interested in taking over the following year,” said Richards, who became the permanent pre-K teacher in 1974 and continued to build the program until her retirement in 1996. Richards and her husband, Tommy, raised their two children, Carlyn (Richards)Heath and Travis Richards in Hargill. Carlyn teaches in Sharyland schools and her children, Kendal and Garrett both attended St. Joseph. Travis is the Regional President of Capital Farm Credit.
The educators did not meet at St. Joseph, though. They had been friends for some time through their husbands, who both worked in farming and the cattle business. And while they spent their days together teaching at St. Joseph, the women passed many weekends together on trips with their children, to gymnastics camps for example. This bond of friendship clearly made for some magical moments at the school.
Richards recalls one of her favorite outings, to participate in a parade with Martin Farm and Feed.
“The Martin children were in my class. We made a covered wagon and costumes,” she recalled. “The parents were always so supportive. If we needed anything, they were there to help.”
Longoria recalls taking the pre-K and kinder classes to Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville.
“Bobby Pulido Jr. was in the class that year and his father, Robert Pulido, let us take his touring bus to the zoo! We had so much fun,” remembers Longoria, speaking of Edinburg’s famous musical family.
Every day was fun, they insist. Teaching is a passion and these ladies were not only committed to their craft, but were 100 percent committed to children and to mentoring new teachers. During their tenure, two new faculty joined the ranks, Mrs. Diana Lyssy and Mrs. Yvette Pollock Rodriguez—both have now been teaching at St. Joseph for more than 30 years.
“I learned everything I know about teaching from these two ladies,” said Lyssy, who teaches pre-K and kinder classes at St. Joseph. “We laughed a lot as we worked on projects, sometimes on weekends and late into the night. We all felt so connected and part of a family.”
Rodriguez, who counts Richards as a life-long family friend, said, “I was just out of college and they took me under their guidance. I was so happy. I’m still happy. This [St. Joseph] is my home thanks to them.”
Longoria and Richards enjoyed having their children at St. Joseph while they taught there, but they also delighted in having their grandchildren in class years later. Both love that their children wanted to enroll their kids at the school. It is just such a special place, the pair echoed.
After retiring from St. Joseph, Beverly went on to teach (again, not intentionally) at St. Matthew’s for 12 years; that is where her youngest grandchildren were enrolled. Mary, followed her friend to St. Matthew’s for a couple of years. Richards daughter-in-law Shelley remarked, “Many families enrolled their children in Pre-K at St. Matthew’s because of Beverly and Mary—they followed them—and then moved to St. Joseph for kinder and beyond.”
Tickets to the Pre-TurkeyFest Alumni Reunion are free, and an RSVP to (956) 383-3759 or via EventBrite https://tinyurl.com/y2j3ok6r is requested.