A fifth-generation Cerean, Alyssa Long always envisioned finding a meaningful job in her hometown after completing her college education.
But the 2011 Central Valley High School grad didn’t know in what capacity until transferring to Stanislaus State.
“I knew from a young age I wanted to come back to help the community that raised me,” she said. “My family’s been here since 1906. It was before Ceres was incorporated as a city.”
It should come as no surprise that Long, 27, decided to become a teacher.
She followed in the footsteps of her mom Tracy Long (Elliott Continuation School) and aunt Kristy Thornton (Kimball High School).
Brenda Brown, Long’s fourth-grade teacher at Sam Vaughn Elementary, also served as a role model.
“I was very lucky,” she said. “I had a ton of fantastic inspirations.”
Long was hired by Ceres Unified School District in 2017-18.
“Ceres is one of the top districts,” she said. “They’re pretty progressive. They’re always trying to do the newest thing.”
Long will work at Westport Elementary School for the third straight year beginning this fall.
She’ll be a sixth-grade teacher.
She taught fifth- and fourth-grade students the previous two years.
“My No. 1 priority is making sure the kids feel safe and loved,” Long said. “If they feel like you care about them, they will work hard for you and go above and beyond. They will appreciate you. Kids are resilient. They’re incredible little humans.”
“My favorite part is getting to learn from the kids and know their families,” she added. “I have between 30-32 different personalities that come from different walks of life. You can never get bored. Hopefully, I impact my students to be better people.”
Long spent her first year working as a fourth-grade teacher at Adkison Elementary School.
She did her student-teaching under Brown’s guidance at Westport.
“Trying to accommodate all the kids’ needs is a juggling act,” Long said. “I’ve gotten more confident and comfortable. You have to be able to listen. Kids need to have a voice and feel like they matter. And they do. If you don’t have a sense of humor, teaching will eat you alive. You can be relaxed and encourage the kids to learn. You have to let a little of the control go. You don’t have to be an Army sergeant.”
Long is looking forward to returning to the classroom.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of all schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year on April 1.
School instruction was provided via distance learning. “The technology aspect wasn’t a problem,” Long said. “Not being able to be face to face is a total different ball game. I’m a better teacher face to face. I’ll be really excited when I can give the kids hugs. I have secret handshakes with them.”
Long graduated from Stanislaus State in 2016 with a degree in liberal studies with a concentration in English. She earned her teaching credential in 2017.
She majored in psychology while attending UC Santa Cruz from 2011-13.
“Education is so important,” said Long, who wanted to pursue a career in social work before deciding to become a teacher. “It gives you so many more opportunities. It can take you places.”
Long was the recipient of Central Valley High School’s Golden Hawk Female Athlete Award in 2011.
She earned 13 varsity letters during her prep career, including four in basketball, three in volleyball, and two in soccer, softball and track and field.
Long averaged 9.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 2.3 assists while leading the girls basketball team to its first-ever league title and postseason appearance. The Hawks won a share of the Western Athletic Conference crown, qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs and posted a 15-8 record during her senior year.
“Having the opportunity to play sports, it instills so many values that transcend to life,” Long said.