M-A Celebrates Pam Wimberly

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On Thursday, June 1st, over 100 people convened in the New Gym to celebrate Pamela Wimberly’s 55 years of service to the M-A community. Teachers, administrators, and community members helped organize the event.

Principal Karl Losekoot, P.E. teacher Eric Wilmurt, former-principal Matthew Zito, M-A alum and staff member Adrian Perkins, and a representative from Assemblyman Marc Berman’s office spoke in recognition of Wimberly’s accomplishments and impact on M-A. Perkins, also a former M-A girls basketball player, presented “Coach Wimbo” with a jersey and a box of photos and mementos from her time at M-A. 

A poster displays some statistics from Wimberly’s time at M-A

Wimberly also received written recognition from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Josh Becker, Berman, Menlo Park Mayor Jen Wolosin, and Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer. Suspended on the walls of the gym were a massive poster congratulating Wimberly on her retirement and a screen displaying photos of Wimberly and slides detailing her accomplishments.

Perkins knew Wimberly for much of her life, as Wimberly coached both her mother and her aunt. In 1999, Perkins played varsity basketball under Wimberly, and returned to coach with her after graduating college. Perkins has been at M-A for 15 years, and currently works in M-A’s Guidance Office. Perkins said, “She has impacted my life so much by showing me how to lead and showing me how to overcome mental battles. The joy and the love that Ms. Wimberly has for M-A is incredible. It just makes me want to come back and do 15 more years.”

PE coach Eric Wilmurt delivered an emotional speech on working with Wimberly

Erica Hayes attended M-A from 2004 to 2008, and had Wimberly as either a basketball coach or P.E. teacher for all four years. Hayes said, “She has just impacted my life in so many ways throughout my basketball career, so I had to come and show her love and support. She was just always raising the standard and always seeing the best in you.” 

Recalling a fond memory with Wimberly, Hayes said, “I remember one particular time, I was in the game and I did a behind-the-back layup and she was like, ‘Erica, you don’t have to be so fancy all the time, just make the layup!’ And I was like, ‘Eh, alright’, but I do it again and she takes me out of the game. And I looked at her like, ‘I’m ready, I’m not gonna do that again, I  promise!’”

Hayes concluded, “She just always pushes you to be better, and she’s always leading by example. A phenomenal woman, overall.”

Yolanda Nelson, Hayes’ mother, said, “Because of Ms. Wimberly, my daughter made it on the Hall of Fame here.”

State Senator Josh Becker presented Wimberly with an award for her 55 years of service to the M-A community.

Keith Perkins, a former M-A custodian and parent, said, “She was definitely a mentor to me because, with her being older and her being a black female—one of the only black teachers here—I could always go to her and ask her for advice. She would be honest with me, and that’s what I loved about her. It was not like she was trying to trash anybody, she just helped me out.” On her retirement, Perkins said, “It’s about time.”

Vicki Sullivan was an M-A English teacher for over 20 years and coached with Wimberly for more than 10 of them.

Vicki Sullivan said, “Pam’s the winningest woman coach in California! I had a ball being her assistant coach.” Larry Sullivan, Vicki Sullivan’s husband, added, “[Vicki] emphasizes that she was the assistant coach out of respect for Pam. That’s a sign of respect to what Pam really stood for: excellence of coaching but also integrity and citizenship. [Pam] is a very special person.” 

Former principal Matthew Zito spoke on Wimberly’s role as a pillar of the M-A community.

Describing Wimberly as a coach, Vicki Sullivan said, “The way she coached would be a real model for other coaches. She didn’t yell or spit nickels. She treated everyone with respect. The opposition, the referees, the coaches. I never heard her yelling at referees—and it’s very tempting.” 

Some of the Sullivans’ favorite memories from their time with Wimberly come from the many tournaments that the basketball team played in. Sullivan said, “We tried to do a tournament every few years. We took the kids away and would stay overnight. It was a maturing process, and it gave us time with those kids to build up camaraderie and all of that, especially over Christmas vacation. It was really fun.” 

A poster at the front of the gym displayed photos of Wimberly and an article about her success as a basketball coach.

Sullivan fondly recalled the basketball team’s Cow Patty Party and Pancake Breakfast. She said, “We had a Cow Patty Party [to raise money for the Canada trip]. You bought a ticket and you reserved a spot on the football field. They’d mark squares on the football field and then they walked a cow around—a well-fed steer! Wherever it first pooped, that person won ”a $1000 prize.

Tamanika Ledbetter and Kelly Shiozaki graduated from M-A in 1998, and Wimberly was their basketball coach. A favorite memory of theirs with Wimberly is a slumber party the basketball team had at M-A, where they played basketball and ate candy in the gym all night long. Regarding Wimberly’s retirement, Ledbetter said, “I’m just so happy for her. I’m so proud and I just can’t believe it’s been 55 years, time has flown! She will be missed here for sure.” Shiozaki said, “She has given back so much to M-A by helping get the new gym and just all the stuff that she’s done and accomplished over the years. She’s a legend.”

Adrian Perkins, who was both a player and later a coach on Wimberly’s basketball team, delivered a speech praising “Coach Wimbo.”

Steve Lippi was an M-A teacher and administrator for just over 30 years, and he returns to campus every year to help proctor AP exams. He said, “I knew Pam Wimberly the whole time I was at M-A. It’s just a milestone at M-A to have a teacher who’s been here so long retire. I wouldn’t miss this for the world, and it’s really nice to honor her. She’s one of a kind.”

Zito was M-A’s principal from 2007 to 2015, and worked with Wimberly while she was the Athletic Director and Head Coach of the girls basketball team. Zito said, “She’s one of only 12 people in the state that have ever worked for 55 years, and there are 445 thousand active teachers. She started teaching when she was 21 years old and she started the girls basketball program. There were no organized sports for girls before 1968, so she really started when girls sports in California got organized.” 

The event included a song about Wimberly written and performed by former M-A teacher Patrick Maier.

“She is just as good today as she was 55 years ago, and after an entire career in education, I can tell you that that’s not usually the case,” Zito said. “She always teaches ninth graders, and I remember just how patient and caring she was. I realized early on, she doesn’t just teach P.E.; She teaches [her students] how to be successful socially, professionally, and academically. That’s something you just don’t get a lot.”
The M-A community gathered in force to celebrate Wimberly’s ground-breaking tenure. With her retirement, Wimberly plans to stay active, write a book, trace her genealogy, and travel the United States. Read about Wimberly’s wisdom after her years at M-A, about her childhood racial experiences, her experiences with M-A’s race riots, and about her retirement.

Amala is a senior at M-A, and this is her second year in journalism. She enjoys using journalism to explore education policy and highlight extraordinary individuals in the community. She is also a part of M-A’s Leadership-ASB, and spends her free time at the beach.

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