The Turlock Unified School District community received devastating news on Saturday when it was announced that a beloved educator had passed due to coronavirus complications.
Lilly Barrón, known as Maestra Barrón to her students, was a teacher at Osborn Elementary for over 30 years where she served as a passionate advocate for dual language education and helped create and grow the school’s current dual immersion program. After Barrón and several of her family members fell ill around Father’s Day, she battled the illness for weeks before passing on Saturday morning.
“We know that in addition to touching the lives of countless generations of Osborn students and families, Lily was also a trusted and respected colleague and this loss will be felt by so many,” TUSD said in a Facebook post, where comments memorializing the longtime teacher poured in. “Please keep her family and friends in your thoughts, prayers and hearts during this time as they also just lost two beloved brothers.”
Colleagues, students and friends shared stories of Barrón on social media, who “taught generations of children to excel academically, inspired them with the power of language and celebrated the importance of valuing one’s own culture as well as honoring the cultures of others,” her school posted.
Barrón was a past recipient of the Association of Two-Way & Dual Language Education Teacher of the Year Award for her work with Osborn’s increasingly-popular program. ATDLE Executive Director said in a statement that Barrón “was always a warrior and advocates for children in (the) community. An amazing educator — so hardworking, such an expert in her craft. But even more important, a wonderful person, such a good woman.”
Osborn shared Barrón lived by the credo that, “Ser un educator bilingüe no es solo una profesión, es una pasión!” or “To be a bilingual educator isn’t just a profession, it’s a passion!”
Osborn Principal Ed Ewing not only oversaw Barrón as her administrator, but also taught with her at one point and interacted with her as a parent when his two children were in her class.
“In each of these capacities I got to know Lilly as a fierce advocate for children — especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as a knowledgeable and passionate dual language educator and as a woman with a great capacity for joy and humor,” Ewing said. “The success of the immersion program at Osborn can largely be attributed to her work as one of the early pioneers of the program and her steadfast leadership throughout the years. She leaves behind a legacy of devoted educators, supportive parents and students able to reap the benefits of a dual language education.”
Osborn health technician Alicia Miranda was a childhood friend and longtime colleague of Barrón, she shared with the Journal. Years before they worked together at Osborn, the two girls would sit on the old, rugged fence outside of Barrón’s home and talk about everything under the sun while their parents visited inside. When they weren’t dangling their feet off the edge of the fence and sharing a laugh, they could often be found playing tag throughout the neighborhood with other children on the block.
Miranda knew Barrón not only as a close friend throughout their childhood, but as a respectable work colleague who always fought to better the school’s immersion program. She always listened with an open mind, Miranda said, and was willing to help people without judgement. On top of all she helped the school achieve, Barrón was always eager to share her wisdom with others so that they could continue to improve.
“Losing you is heartbreaking my longtime family friend, my Wednesday lunch partner, my mentor,” Miranda said. “You may not be here physically, but your smile and your spirit will live on forever in these hallways at Osborn.”
Erika Moreno was in Barrón’s fourth grade class in 2005 and looked back fondly on her late teacher, who she said helped her to excel in math, learn self-discipline, respect her peers and always try to be a team player. Moreno’s grandmother is an Osborn faculty alumna and would still return to volunteer at the school, where she always made sure to check in on her good friend Barrón.
“I was very saddened and shocked to hear about Sra. Barrón’s passing. Life is very precious and I hope she is at peace,” Moreno told the Journal. “Teachers really hold a special place in each one of our hearts. We sometimes forget that the people who taught us and inspired us are human, too.”
Candy Padilla, a former student and current Osborn parent, was in Barrón’s second grade class in 1980 and noted that the educator was implementing dual immersion in the classroom before it was even a program at the school. Through her current work in the Osborn Parent Teacher Association, Padilla said she had grown to know Barrón on a different, more “adult” level in recent years — a meaningful relationship between a teacher and one-time pupil.
“Many of us students considered her a strict teacher, but as I got older, I realized she was one of the best teachers I have ever had,” Padilla said. “She taught us how to follow rules and to respect one another. I realize now as an adult and a mother how much that meant to me.”
TUSD stated that Ewing, Jessica’s House and student support clinicians would be on hand to work with grieving staff, students and families affected by the loss of Barrón. In memory of Barrón, her family has asked that any donations be made to the Osborn Scholarship Alumni Fund.