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Eva Poole-Gilson, Area Coordinator of Inyo County, Eulogizes Big Pine Classroom Teacher

Eulogy, in memory and honor of Gabrielle Guerrero Orsello

Honoring a late Big Pine teacher

By Eva Poole-Gilson

Special to The Inyo Register

Last year, 2019, Molly Fisk, poet laureate of Nevada County, California, received a grant from the Academy of American Poets to fund workshops to encourage students to write poems in response to our state’s recent wildfires. The grant funded 22 poets from California Poets in the Schools to lead the workshops.

That’s how I got involved. CPITS – founded in 1964 and originally housed at San Francisco State University – is the “umbrella” I’ve taught under for years. My work with CPITS, now called CalPoets, has brought me happy days – I’ve lost count of how many. It’s introduced me to many wonderful young students. And, ah yes, to many fine teachers.

For sure one of the sweetest of all was Gabrielle Guerrero Orsello.

I’d been in Lone Pine last Sept. 5, and as twilight came down, I headed north on U.S. Highway 395 back to my home in Bishop. Just a few miles beyond Independence and the old Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, I couldn’t help but notice in the darkening light a glowing golden orange rectangle high to my west, against the Sierra.

FIRE! Definitely. And definitely where it didn’t belong.

Alone in my little Honda I began taking deep breaths; I felt I couldn’t get enough air. Memory dropped meanly, quickly down on me: Feb. 5 and 6, 2015. That memory wrapped around me like a bad jacket; the long, tight hours with my dear friend from Swall Meadows who lost her home those days – in what came to be known as the Round Fire.

It was only a memory, but it was a choker.

The September 2019 fire I was riding toward eventually got named: “Taboose Fire.”

I kept a close eye on it for weeks, until it was considered “contained.” It was allowed to burn out. But it made me nervous for a long time.

It made me think of the Big Pine children who must have witnessed its shocking start as I had, and who must have continued to see its slow, smoky demise, as I had, for weeks.

I decided to see if I could take the Fisk program to them.

I called Big Pine School. “Who is the teacher of the fourth graders?” (I’ve always especially liked working with 9 and 10-year-olds. In my life, that’s when I met lifetime friends.)

Good fortune; Big Pine’s fourth grade teacher was Gabrielle Guerrero.

I didn’t know her, but I liked the sound of her name and asked straightaway to be connected. Thinking to be speedy and convincing, I launched right into what the Fisk program and I were about.

She broke in, “Oh that would be wonderful! We’re working on a poetry unit right now. You’ll fit right in! Let’s meet.”

For five magical days I witnessed Gabby’s rapport with her young students. She shared her energy, sensitivity, and knowledge with them minute by minute. She entered into their studies; everything they said, questioned, read – all of import to each of them was of essential importance to her also.

They responded with minute by minute respect, curiosity, and a wide willingness to learn. They took to sharing in the way that she modelled, the kind of risky sharing that poetry requests. Truly, Gabby was an outstanding teacher!

She won and retains my highest admiration.

My five poetry sessions with Gabrielle and her students were five hours of excited delight. You’ll see here below some of the poems then written by her students.

(Editor’s note: These are the first of a collection of poems by Gabrielle Orsello’s fourth grade students, which will continue to appear in future editions.)


By Calvin Spratt

When I eat a nut

100 squirrels

beat me up!


By Calvin Spratt

You are

An ice cream cat

A little marshmallow

Better than my favorite pet

I love your brownies

You take me to football

You are my ice cream cat

Dear Future

By Waylon Mairs

I wish you bacon for brunch

Snakes in soup

Birds singing

Clams in cups

I love you future

A bunch of browned


My Last wish


For Nana

By Alice Carmona

You are a rainbow

To unlock me and

To see the stars inside me

You help me out

The best you can

You are a rainbow

I like your

curly dirty blonde hair

To see the stars inside me

Dear Futurr

By Alice Carmona

I wish you

Happy dancing trees

With the birds singing

Chirping happily

Hopping bunnies

With floppy ears

And swimming fish

Happy puppies

Big or small

They are all the same

Just like us!

Dear future,

By Sidonie Spoonhunter

I wish you

Friends a dog

Will do, a lick a

Slobber filled with

Joy on your cool cheek

Will bring you happiness

Birds a tweet in

The morning will wake

You up their soft fragile

Wings flap to a beat

Hot summer days playing

In the pool reading books

In the sunlight and no school

For Cha’a

By Sidonie Spoonhunter

You are

A summertime poppy

My sugar and spice

Better than a late night sunset

I love your toast

Freshly made because,

You’re my summertime poppy

You’re sweeter than Appa!

My own lollipop!

Better than a late night sunset

Greater than chocolate

On a very late night

You’re my summertime poppy

I’m a small butterfly

You’re my big pink flower

Better than a late night sunset

Better than candy bars

Sweeter than sugar!

You are my summertime poppy

Better than a late night sunset

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