Spanish teacher says adios to students, staff for the last time, retiring after a 38-year tenure


Rebekah Kim

Spanish teacher John Marvin makes sure he finishes the spring semester strong as he sits in front of his computer screen in Room 85 after issuing tests for his fifth period Spanish 1 class on Friday, May 20. After 38 years working here as a Spanish teacher, Marvin retired at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

Irene Sheen, Special Sections Editor

Born and raised in the windy city of Chicago, Spanish teacher John Marvin said he grew up embracing all things mid-Americana.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, when he and his family moved out West and settled in Fullerton, that he discovered the world language that he would end up teaching here for nearly 40 years. 

Marvin said that as a teenager and a Fullerton Union High School alum, he also soon acclimated to California’s diverse population — especially those from the Latino culture. 

Soy gringo, pero mi corazón es medio Latino.” (“I am American, but my heart is half-Latino.”)

Those words have since become Marvin’s constant reminder of his love for the Latino culture and his expansive teaching career, which ended with his last Spanish class last Thursday, June 2.

After saying, “Adios,” to his students on the last day of school for the past 38 years, when Marvin said that Spanish word for farewell last week, it was Marvin who will be the one not returning.

The world language instructor first started working at Sunny Hills in the 1984-1985 school year, the same time social science teacher and Associated Student Body co-adviser Mike Paris was hired; these are the only two instructors who have notified school officials of their retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

“When I was hired by the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] in 1984, there were two openings for a Spanish teacher: a split assignment between Troy/Fullerton and a full-time assignment at Sunny Hills, [and] I chose Sunny Hills,” Marvin said. “I consider Fullerton and SHHS my home.”

Just as he’s seen several seniors in his tenure leave their homes for college, the Spanish teacher said he realized this was the time for him to explore outside of the Fullerton community.

“I am in decent health, and there are other adventures I want to experience,” Marvin said.

One of those is to travel around Mexico and Costa Rica to further his immersion in the Latino culture during his retirement. 

“For me, learning Spanish has opened up opportunities to meet and know people from around the Spanish-speaking world,” said Marvin, who earned his associate of arts degree in foreign language rom Fullerton College and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish from California State University, Fullerton. “Through teaching Spanish, I have learned to appreciate and value the Latino culture.”

Besides his more than 20 years’ teaching International Baccalaureate [IB] Spanish and Advanced Placement Spanish Literature, Marvin said he has also devoted his time outside the classroom, especially with the Fullerton Secondary Teachers Organization [FSTO] – the FJUHSD’s teachers union.

“I have been a representative council member, an executive board building representative, vice president three times and FSTO president for six years,” he said. “Securing good contracts and good working conditions are the two main responsibilities [of the union’s president].”

Some of Marvin’s colleagues expected the union leader would stretch out his tenure for a few more years.

“Although the news was somewhat foreseen because he’s been teaching for 30 plus years, it was surprising to hear,” said Spanish teacher and World Language Department chairwoman Maria Torres, who has worked with Marvin since October 2018 when she was first hired at Sunny Hills. “His knowledge and expertise will be missed.”

Torres also praised Marvin for his active role in the teachers union.

“Mr. Marvin is very helpful — he listens, is supportive, shares ideas and gives feedback,” she said. “He’s also a union site representative and has provided support to teachers through this role as well.”

For junior Andrea Maria Rosiles, who is enrolled in Marvin’s first period IB Spanish class, the news of his retirement took her by surprise.

“My best friend and I started crying when he told us [near the middle of April],” Rosiles said. “It was a really sad day because it was the teacher we had been closest to throughout our high school experience so far.”

Since Marvin’s classroom has always remained the same one during his tenure here, Room 85 has become a welcoming place for Rosiles and her peers outside of class time.

“What I will miss most about Mr. Marvin is his ability to make his classroom almost a shelter for his students,” she said. “He is the most welcoming teacher I have ever had, [and] his students know whenever they need help; whether it’s in their academic or personal life, he will always offer advice based on his personal experiences, and he overall, just helped all of us by being so understanding.” 

And being so understanding has been Marvin’s goal as a teacher since he was hired 38 years ago.

“I want to learn how to be most effective,” Marvin was quoted as saying in the Sept. 21, 1984, Accolade article introducing the new instructor to readers. That story was titled, “John Marvin makes Spanish ‘interesante,’ and with Marvin’s next phase of life as a retired teacher, he plans to make sure it’ll remain interesante.