Foster, Alma Kollmann, Raymond Fitchett, Robert Fitchett
and Lois Parker. Four of them were local school teachers
while Robert pursued a career in engineering.
teaching legacy spans nearly a century
By JONATHAN WHITAKER
February 8, 2018
When Kurt Kollmann walked onto the Merced High School campus
last July, he had a observation that he just had to share
with his mother. “Who would have thought,” he
told her, “I would be back at Merced High, almost
40 years later, as the new school principal?”
was a rhetorical question from a member of the Class of
if anyone could answer the question with the words, “I
always knew,” it would have to be Kurt’s mother,
surely wasn’t surprised when Kurt became a teacher
after college. She could see the profession in him when
he was just a teen.
just had a feeling.
it also helped that Alma herself was a longtime teacher
… and so were her sisters Lois and Sarah … and
her brother Raymond … and, of course, her mother Gladys
… and even her grandmother, Minnie.
there’s been an uninterrupted period of employed teachers
in this California family — from parents to children
— for the past 98 school years. And most of that time,
some 96 years, they’ve all been teaching right here
in Merced County.
means, they’ve helped educate thousands of local students.
never thought about doing anything else,” Alma said
during an interview with the Times. “Sometimes I think
it’s a gene that we share. It’s part of our
family history lesson goes back to the very late 1800s,
and the birth of the 20th century, in Keeler, California,
when a young teacher named Minnie Lounsbury was just starting
out at Keeler School.
those days, a teacher had to live in a home with a family
for several months. So she did, and that’s where she
met Herbert Wrinkle, the son of Laurence Wrinkle, an MIT
grad and a university professor. After the school year was
over, Herbert and Minnie were married, and they began to
plan a family.
couple would welcome three children into the world, however,
Minnie was widowed within six years. She ended up taking
the kids to Santa Cruz and lived there for more than a decade,
until around 1919, when she decided to enter a classroom
again. Minnie went from Ripon schools to the Merced City
School District in 1921. She taught first grade at the old
Le Conte School where the County Administration building
stands today, near M and 23rd streets.
the time, the superintendent was known for only hiring single
women. And there was no salary scale. Minnie was eligible
due to her status as a widow. She would end up teaching
in Merced for about 25 years before she died in 1947.
Minnie retired, her daughter Gladys Wrinkle Fitchett started
teaching at Rotterdam School in Merced County. Gladys was
a 1923 graduate of Merced High School, and to get a teaching
credential back then, all she had to do was pass a state
test. So she did.
Fitchett taught at Farmdale School (where she also taught
her daughters Alma and Sarah), and then at Weaver School.
She later received a degree from Fresno State. In 1959,
she became a Merced county consultant.
loved her job,” her daughter Alma said. “She
loved the children, and talked about them all the time.”
Fitchett lived a long life, and died in 1999.
the mid-1950s, four of Mrs. Fitchett’s five children
started entering the teaching world.
daughter Alma Fitchett started teaching in 1953. She also
married John Kollmann who taught in Merced for many years.
Alma worked at Winton School, and than at various locations
in the Merced City School District for nearly 40 years.
had a lot of freedom to teach the way I wanted to teach,”
retired in 1992 after a 17-year run as a school counselor
at Rivera School. Today, at 86, Alma continues to live in
brother, Raymond Fitchett, said he had a hell of a time
with a college class at Cal Poly. He told himself, “If
I get through this, I’m going to help anyone I can
get through this same class.”
when Raymond decided to become a teacher.
had a desire to help others,” he said.
taught at El Nido and then later in Winton. He became the
superintendent of the Winton School District, and also taught
at Merced College. Today, Raymond is 89 years old, and remains
active in the community.
Fitchett Foster worked as a teacher in Gustine and Madera
as a home economics teacher and a high school counselor.
She also married a teacher, and eventually moved to Bakersfield.
She is 84 years old.
oldest of Gladys Fitchett’s children, Lois Fitchett
Parker, entered the teaching profession a little later than
her siblings. She worked for the Los Angeles School District,
but later moved back to Merced and taught reading recovery
at Franklin School in Merced.
have to remember,” she said, “when I started
in the early 1960s, women still had little choice. You would
go in for an interview with the college counselor, and there
would be three choices: teaching, nursing, or become a secretary.”
today is 93 and lives in Merced.
teaching bug kept multiplying in the family. Lois raised
two sons who became teachers. Thomas Parker taught at several
local schools, including at Hoover School, and later held
principal positions at Tenaya, Franklin and Rivera, before
retirement. He married a teacher, Anita Parker.
brother, Michael Parker, became a part-time criminal justice
instructor at Merced College, and is still teaching in the
daughter, Jane Kollmann Serpa, taught at Franklin School
before moving to Turlock where she teaches today at Julien
brother, Kurt Kollmann, taught math in Atwater schools and
eventually became an associate principal at Atwater High,
Golden Valley High and Buhach Colony High over a 32-year
career. He also coached water polo. Kurt became principal
at Merced High last year — perhaps the first Bear
graduate (1978) to ever hold the position, (or at least
the first one in the past 50 years, records show).
guess it started when I was a senior in high school when
I worked with other students on campus. It was a natural
progression. I played water polo and swam, and I wanted
to coach. In my junior year at Fresno State, I took an introductory
teaching course just to see if that’s what I wanted
to do. … One thing led to another.”
wife, Michelle, is also a teacher at Mitchell Elementary
another Kollmann — Anna Kollmann Miller — is
an educator with the Merced County Office of Education.
Her husband, Jim, teaches at Rivera Middle School.
2003, Rodd Parker, the grandson of Lois Fitchett Parker,
started teaching at Buhach Colony High School. Today he
is a teacher and water polo coach at El Capitan High School.
Fitchett Kollmann’s grandson, Adam Serpa, taught at
Ripon High School (the same place his great, great grandmother,
Minnie, taught back in the early 1920s), and later moved
to Dublin High School, where he serves as the choral director.
other grandson, Benjamin Serpa, is teaching art history
and drawing at Merced College.
Alma’s son Kurt Kollmann mentioned he has “one
out of five kids” — a daughter at Buhach Colony
High — who is “thinking about” a career
is a sixth generation, but it consists of young children,
and family members say it awaits to been if the streak of
teachers in the family will continue.
the Times did take the opportunity to ask some of the retired
educators how they feel the profession has changed over
the years, and just what it takes to be a good teacher.
Fitchett, the retired superintendent, said: “Teaching
is really a personal act. You are working directly with
people, and that’s the real key. You need to think
about the kids. That hasn’t changed. What has changed
is the methodology — how you approach the subject
or the topic you are going to work. That really has changed
a lot. There’s always somebody who has something new
and different that you want to work with. … Some technique
or process they want to use to help understand the subject
they are working with. It’s changing all the time,
and behind that is additional information and knowledge
that comes through. … Computers are replacing textbooks,
and you wonder about that. I remember some of my teachers,
how great they were, and what he or she did for me. You
wonder about the close contact teachers have had with students
in the past, and if that is being replaced.”
Fitchett Kollmann said the idea of only “teaching
to standards” is concerning, as well as, the existence
of huge school districts, and too many kids per classroom.
said she often visits and helps out in her daughter-in-law’s
6th grade classroom at Mitchell School, and sees the differences,
but also the things that haven’t changed.
knows her children and that’s important,” Alma
said. “One group is not the same as another. You have
to change and adapt.”
makes a good teacher?
Raymond: “You don’t want people who are going
to be worried about getting their clothes dirty because
of a careless student. You don’t want people who are
going to be bothered by the little things. You want people
who are going to be open and free in their minds.”
older sister, Lois Parker, added: “If you pick up
a book each day, and it tells you what to do, but you don’t
pay attention to what the children are saying, you shouldn’t
last observation ...
Fitchett said he was sad to see an old olive tree cut down
recently in Merced, near 23rd and Canal streets. He said
it used to give shade to a playground area and sandbox in
the yard of the old Le Conte School where his grandmother
taught so many years ago. It survived the eventual construction
of the County Administration building at the site, and remained
for many years surrounded by a large parking lot. This year,
the county added solar panel coverings to the lot (like
so many local school campuses have done) and the tree was
removed in the process. A construction worker told the times
that crews found a “lot of brick” in the ground
during the project — perhaps relics from the old school.