SANTA ANA VALLEY High School teacher Heidi Cooley
hugs the class valedictorian , Mayra Garcia , before graduation Wednesday at the Santa Ana Bowl.
, who is leaving the school this year , helped Garcia with her
Teacher Heidi Cooley
was already weepy last week when she
seniors row by row for the last time.
The Advanced Placement English students insisted that she
do so - just like she
did at the start of the year.Only this time , they hugged her
one by one as they left.
This time of the year is always emotional for Cooley
, a teacher for seven years , including four at Valley and one as district teacher of the year.But this year is especially tough because it's her
last.Next year , Cooley will work on her doctorate at the University of California , Irvine
It's really hard.So many of them I won't get to see again , Cooley
checked caps and gowns before students entered the field.She
scouted out familiar faces among the sea of blue gowns , finding edgy valedictorian Mayra Garcia , who Cooley
helped with her
found Melissa Vasquez.
While students waited on the field , Cooley
listened to muffled speeches in the shade behind the goal post.She
likes to sit there so she
can see kids one last time as they walk out.
After a two-hour ceremony , Cooley
stood at the field's edge where students were filing out row by row , just like they had in her
class.And just like she
had last week , Cooley's eyes welled up as she
squeezed students.At the end , she
hugged Vasquez - one of her
My philosophy is once I'm their teacher , I'm always their teacher , Cooley
Caps , gowns , smiles and cameras.Here's a chance to share your memories with classmates and friends across Orange County
The Orange County Register and MyOC.com
are gathering 2001 graduation photos for publication in the newspaper and online.