Breaking News: Founding Teacher Ms. Gabay Retires


Arely M. Gómez Hernández, School News Writer

The final founding teacher of The Preuss School UC San Diego, Ms. Jan Gabay, is retiring this 2021 school year. She taught AP English Literature and Composition, AP English Language and Composition, Service Learning, English classes for grades 6th-10th, as well as an Art and Music elective to 6th graders, and APUSH for the first class of juniors in 2003. She was also recognized in 1990 as the U.S. National Teacher of the Year by president George Bush at a White House ceremony.

“Being a teacher is my biggest professional achievement! I have been privileged to be recognized by my fellow teachers and to be a representative of the teaching profession,” Mrs. Gabay said. “One example was when I was named 1990 U.S. National Teacher of the Year in a White House ceremony with President George HW Bush.”

Ms. Jan Gabay’s trajectory has been incredibly outstanding. She is a Hawaiian native, who came to San Diego as a child and attended many San Diego city schools. She attended San Diego State University and earned a bachelor’s degree, as well as a secondary teaching credential, a community college instructor credential and a specialist teaching credential in gifted education. She first taught at Serra High School, and then The Preuss School when she heard that the San Diego Unified School District was going to create a school to support low-income students.

“I followed the stories in the news about UC San Diego and the San Diego Unified School District joining to create a school that served low-income students of diverse backgrounds to prepare them for college. These were students who often were ‘forgotten’ or overlooked in the general comprehensive high schools and were tracked into unchallenging, basic courses with no expectation that they might even consider college,” Ms. Gabay said.

“The Preuss School was going to challenge this limited view of what students could do and everyone would be given the gift of a rigorous exciting curriculum with lots of academic support from all teachers.”

Teaching has always been important in Ms. Gabay’s life. Throughout her life, she has had many great models who have taught her and showed her the real meaning of being a teacher. When starting college, the idea of becoming a teacher intrigued her and working with students was an idea she loved. Ms. Gabay believes that in order to make a change in the world, the world needs to be handed over to experienced and prepared students.

“I loved being at school the entire time I was growing up and thought that the job of teachers must be enchanted, especially the job of my English teachers who opened my world through the incredible books we got to read. I had wonderful teachers in all grades who modeled their excitement and knowledge about their subjects and who showed genuine caring and belief in their students,” Ms. Gabay shared. “I always have believed that if someone wants to change the
world, one powerful way is to “hand-off the world” to students through reading, study, and classroom experiences so these students can then go on and make their own impact.”

During her career, Ms. Gabay has created wonderful memories. However, the best memories she’s made here at Preuss have been in her classroom E101. The bond she had with her students was amazing and her favorite memory was seeing them work, struggle, to then prosper.

“I have hundreds of snapshots in my mind of special times in my teaching career that touch me, amuse me, inspire me. What I will remember about Preuss is the moments in my classroom, E101, when there was a certain slant of afternoon light coming through the blinds as I looked across the classroom watching my students reading, working on computers, or questioning, laughing, and connecting with each other’s ideas in discussions we had,” Ms. Gabay said. “I will remember the amazing connection between me and my many Preuss students over the years that transcended the mere physical space of my classroom to become a magical place.”

Just how she has created wonderful memories, Ms. Gabay has also left a great impact in all of the Preuss Community. Her passion to teach and support others is very inspirational and at Preuss, she has been a role model for everyone. She will always hold a special place in the Preuss Community’s heart, because her name and contributions will always be remembered. Some of the beautiful memories and impacts she has done in the Preuss Community are recognized by some teachers and staff:

“It took a teacher with the vision and passion of Ms. Gabay to start the school and transform the lives of so many students and their families. She may be retiring, be she ignited that same passion and strength in everyone at Preuss, so it lives on in all of us!” Dr. Weber, chair of the Math Dept, said.

“When I think of Preuss, I think of Ms. Gabay. She has made an impact on Preuss, and on me as an English teacher, that will last long beyond when she retires! Her passion for her students, her passion for our mission, and her passion for her teaching craft is inspirational. She will be missed, but never forgotten!” Dr. Anderson, English teacher, expressed.

“When I started Preuss in 7th grade, the very first year the school opened, I could tell Ms. Gabay was different than any teacher I had. She has a passion for teaching that never ceased even after I graduated and until this very day that she steps away from the very calling she has had in her life for so long. She will always hold a special place in my heart. I am so very thankful for all that she taught me and so many other students,” Amand Torre (‘05), Family Support Specialist, stated.

“Ms. Gabay inspired me to become a teacher. I can still vividly remember being in her class and being in awe of her passion. She taught me that I matter in this world. I cannot thank Ms. Gabay enough for her wisdom, love, and kindness,” Mrs. Hood-Esparza (‘11), AP Government teacher, expressed.

During her retirement, Mrs. Gabay wants to continue to be involved in education. But she also hopes to spend more time with her family, travel, try new things and pursue other dreams she has. Now that she continues her journey, her hope for the future of Preuss is to continue growing and supporting students who dream to go to college.

“I will continue being involved in education in various ways including continuing writing and speaking. I also hope to travel a bit including connecting in person with my family throughout the U.S. especially now that I will have more time. I also will pursue very personal areas and issues of interests that have always intrigued me—I’ll see where this journey takes me,” Mrs. Gabay expressed. “I am so excited for the future of Preuss as it continues to change and grow in finding the best ways to support student learning.”

Ms. Gabay would like to be remembered as the outgoing and supportive teacher she was. That teacher who was always there for her students and believed in them no matter what challenge they were going through. She wants her legacy to be spread and have a positive influence on students and the people around her. Something she would like everyone to remember is to always give the best of yourself and be a role model who motivates others.

“I would like to be remembered as a teacher at The Preuss School who had an unwavering belief in the talents and abilities of students, despite any personal, emotional, and academic challenges students may have faced. I hope my legacy at The Preuss School manifests itself in the positive influence I have had on my students in some small way in their lives and professions, as well as in the powerful, collegial, professional relationships I have had with my fellow teachers,” Ms. Gabay stated.

“Remember to be someone who is a model of intelligence, honesty, integrity, and love. Become someone who makes others believe the world is a good place to be and life is worthwhile. Affect the quality of each day positively even if just through an uplifting word, a kind gesture, or a helpful action. We change the world one person at a time. Be kind to yourself, too!! And always have a book with you!!”

Although Ms. Gabay will be retiring this school year, she feels pleased with everyone she has worked with and is very happy with everything she has done and all the memories she’s created at Preuss.

“I want to express my gratitude to all the students, parents, families, and Preuss community that I have had the privilege to work with. And I have a very special affection for all the faculty and staff at The Preuss School UC San Diego that I have worked with from 1999-2021. Whew! It’s been a great ride!!”