An Educator's Evolving Landscape

After Three Decades Working in a Classroom, Helena Feltus's New Career Empowers a New Generation of Educators Through Coaching and Support

June 10, 2024
A photo shows Helena Feltus as she reads her book, “The Alphabet Book of Lowercase Letters,” to a group of children in a classroom.
Helena Feltus reads her book, “The Alphabet Book of Lowercase Letters,” to a group of children in a classroom.

After 32 years of teaching elementary and primary school, from kindergarten to sixth grade at Vallejo Unified School District, Helena Feltus wasn’t quite ready to retire.

In 2008, two weeks before retirement, Feltus got a new job working as an educational coach for the Graduate School of Education at Touro University California. She kicked herself at first, accepting the conventional norm that age defined the threshold to stop working.

“I started in August for orientation, and a month into it, I loved it,” says Feltus about coming out of retirement to help new faculty. “I love working one-on-one with educators.”

The role involves going into classrooms to observe new teachers, often going over lesson plans, and then providing feedback or advice. Of course, the decades of experience teaching provided Feltus with plenty of wisdom, but so did the experience working at the UCLA Lab School and at Stanford doing research and teacher assessments, prior to working as an elementary and primary school teacher.

Going from teaching into a clinical coaching role, Feltus tapped a new purpose in supporting fellow educators. The role provides one-on-one work with teachers, travelling all over the Bay Area, and meeting new people. It also puts Feltus in touch with the motivation that got into teaching in the first place: the power of passing on knowledge.

When Feltus was a student in fifth grade, her cousin came to live with her in the summer. Michael, her cousin, was on the verge of being held back because he couldn’t read, so Feltus volunteered to teach him. By the end of the summer, Michael went home able to read and advance to the next grade.

The experience shaped the way Feltus understood teaching, as a power and wealth. The ability to take something that you know and bestow it to somebody else allowed Feltus to see knowledge as a responsibility to pass along.

“Whatever you know is not for you to just have, it's for you to share, to give it away,” says Feltus. “To me that's power: knowledge is your wealth, not money.”

Helena Feltus is also author of a children's book inspired by her time as a kindergarten teacher called “The Alphabet Book of Lowercase Letters.”