At 95, substitute and WWII vet teaches history from his own experiences

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Saturday, December 16, 2023
At 95, substitute teacher gives history lessons from his own life
Substitute teacher Gene Arnold grew up during the Great Depression so the 95-year-old can speak to kids from his own experience.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (KABC) -- ABC7 salutes a Southern California veteran and substitute teacher who doesn't really need to consult the books when he talks about history.

At 95, he's lived it.

On a recent day at Vineyard Junior High in Rancho Cucamonga, Mr. Gene Arnold was teaching his students about the Great Depression. He was born right before it began.

"We didn't have the cafeteria like you do now. Kids either brought their lunch, or they didn't eat," he told them.

"Well you say, how do you remember that? I'm old! Old people remember things that happened a long time ago, but we can't remember what we did this morning," laughed Arnold.

Arnold served in the Marine Corps toward the end of the World War II era. When he got out of the service he worked in several fields, but eventually decided that the classroom was where he was meant to be.

"I felt and still feel that there's a big need for people to be in the classroom, people who want to be there," said Arnold.

Principal Jenny Vetere with Vineyard Junior High School said the students enjoy having him in class.

"He is so genuine. The kids love him. He's positive, he's passionate about kids," Vetere said.

Eighth grader Luke Scalero said there is common ground, with Arnold growing up and going to school during tough times and today's kids going through the pandemic.

"He understands us, and he can relate to us, because he went to school too in a dark time," Scalero said. "And we were around during COVID and he was too."

So does Mr. Arnold have any thoughts about retiring?

"I know what will happen, and that's the sad part: If I retire, I'm going to go home and sit down. I know that. I'm tired, I really am. Kids keep me going."