Teacher Feature

She works to bring history alive in class

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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LOOMIS ” Bea Bonner has struck gold. Talking to her about teaching fourth grade, which she's done for the past 16 years at Franklin School in Loomis, you might expect her to shout Eureka! I. Love. Fourth. Graders, she said in a very pronounced way. I think they're the most fun group of kids in the whole world. What Bonner enjoys about her favorite grade level is helping students transition out of the primary grades. It's a wonderful challenge, she said. It's a challenging year, but they feel so good about their accomplishments. You work hard, do a good job and have fun. It's a big challenge but I just know they're up to it. Bonner enjoys teaching her students to write, and likes math ” I love it all! she admits ” but she has a particular liking for history. I love California history. It's all around us. It's here, she said, adding that the class takes quite a few field trips to places such as the Empire Mine and the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento. It's something you can do so much with, and it makes it so much more interesting to kids. History can come alive. When the class studied Native American tribes, Bonner's students took turns as chiefs. Her class is currently studying the Donner party and the Gold Rush, complete with nuggets. Bonner doles out gold ” spray-painted beans ” when students exhibit good behavior, and takes them away for certain things, like bathroom breaks, but the goal is to save as many as possible for Bonner's Gold Rush Store, an in-class mercantile of sorts, only open about once a month. They can come through and select over-priced items, because that's how the gold rush was, and it's just a kind of fun, motivational thing, she said. Aside from teaching, the other loves in Bonner's life are her family, entertaining, traveling and her cats. Not that there's anything wrong with dogs, Bonner said, but she is a cat lover, no doubt about it. She and her husband, George, have two cats ” Mr. Yang is 19, and Baby is 8. We sure love our cats, she gushed. Mr. Yang is the smartest animal I've ever seen. They're great companions, but not as needy as dogs. Cats are perfect for our lifestyle, and they're just wonderful pets. What Bonner finds wonderful about teaching is that no two days are the same. I have never once been bored teaching, she said. I can't even imagine retiring. I'm just having too much fun. Bonner feels it's important to make fourth grade fun, rewarding and memorable. They may think I'm loony, but I don't want them not to remember who I was. I want them to remember how fun it was, she said. The Journal's Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at