El Morro Principal Chris Duddy describes the veteran teacher as “a principal’s dream.”
“She is a leader on campus and throughout the district,” Duddy told the board. “Teaching is her life.” Casola has served as second-grade chairwoman several times, he added.
“Her classroom is organized meticulously, and her classroom management is top-notch,” Duddy said. “Her students do really well.”
El Morro students are among the top achievers in the state, and this year the school was named a California Distinguished School.
As a longtime El Morro teacher, Casola says she “clicks” with the younger students. She is now teaching second grade, but her favorite is first grade.
“In first grade, you are opening them up to a whole new world,” she said.
Casola joined the Laguna Beach school district in 1983, spending most of her years at El Morro. She came to California from New Jersey, where she was born and raised and also spent her first four years as a teacher.
She says she had planned to go into the field of learning disabilities, but was immediately hired at El Morro, where she has remained over the years, taking time off to raise her children.
She said her early interest in learning disabilities has been an advantage in her overall teaching career.
“I’m so fortunate to be in a district where I get constant support,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade [Laguna Beach] for any other district.”
To younger teachers just starting out, she says: “You have to have a sense of humor to survive. You have to be able to laugh with your students’ successes and failures.”
Casola says she is overwhelmed to be honored “in the autumn of my career,” but quickly adds that she has no immediate plans for retirement, especially with the faltering economy.
The Dana Point resident and her husband, Robert, have two sons and four granddaughters.