A former ballerina and well-respected West Contra Costa Unified educator has left a legacy that will benefit students in the district where she taught for many years.
The Ed Fund, which serves public education in West County, announced Wednesday that it has received a bequest from Ms. Bernice Bell, who began teaching first grade in the district in 1943.
The amount of the bequest was not disclosed in an announcement posted by Joel Mackey, The Ed Fund’s executive director. Mackey said the proceeds from the bequest will initially support after-school and summer programs for district children, and also establish a scholarship in Bell’s name for students who plan to become a teacher or an artist.
Plans for the bequest are appropriate given Bell’s career and passions.
Ms. Bell, who was born in the Bay Area and attended Oakland schools, first taught at Rancho Elementary School, and after the school closed she taught at Tara Hills Elementary starting in 1983 until her retirement in 1991.
“Ms. Bell never married and is remembered by her co-workers as someone who loved to teach and who loved the kids she taught,” Mackey said. “Her co-workers viewed her as a strong teacher of reading, writing, and mathematics. She was very traditional and taught in the manner teachers were trained in the 60s, mostly instruction and seat work.”
She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and in her early years was a ballerina in the San Francisco Ballet Company. She performed in Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Now the Brides, Amor Espagnol, Coppelia, Roumanian Rhapsody, and many others, Mackey said.
“We are fortunate to receive this bequest from Ms. Bell and are grateful to her for her generosity,” Mackey said.