After spending the last 55 years teaching first graders to read, Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Stephen Elizabeth Daly is hoping for a little more reading time of her own in retirement.Last month, Sister Daly, 75, ended a 26-year stint teaching first grade at St. Ferdinand in San Fernando. Her departure from the parish school ends nearly a half-century of service there by the Carondelet Sisters.“I just kept saying: one more year, one more, one more,” said the San Francisco native and Giants baseball fan. She relishes the Giants jersey she received at her June 16 parish retirement party, decorated on the back with the words “SR. STEPHEN 26.” A daily communicant at St. Ferdinand, she feels that the parish with its large Hispanic population is like family — similar to the close-knit community in the Irish neighborhood where she grew up and attended Mary Star of the Sea School located at 9th and Geary in “The City” by the San Francisco Bay.“I think both Irish and Mexican cultures value family,” said Sister Daly, whose younger sister by one year, Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Timothy Anne Daly, followed her into religious life. Their parents were always helping the nuns out at the school, and it was natural for the Daly sisters to help out as well.The older Daly sister surprised her family when she told them she was thinking of entering the Carondelet Sisters, because she had said she was going to apply to nursing school. However, on a spring day before graduation, she casually announced to her mom on her way out to get ice cream: “I think I’d like to enter in September.” “I think it was the example of the Sisters and their friendliness,” explained Sister Daly. “They were wonderful. I had a really good feeling of working with them and reaching out [volunteering with other students] at the Laguna Honda nursing and rehabilitation center on Saturday. We were very, very Christian service oriented.” In her high school class of 100, at least seven girls entered the Carondelet Sisters.Sister Daly decided to be a teacher while taking classes in the novitiate. At 20, she faced her first class of first-graders in Fresno, where she taught for three years. She spent six years teaching at St. Jerome in Los Angeles, one year at St. John in Inglewood, four years in a Palo Alto school, five years in a La Jolla school and ten years at St. Vincent in L.A.’s inner city before arriving at St. Ferdinand.Going from tony La Jolla to South L.A. was “a huge, drastic change but the kids were great,” said Sister Daly. She recently was on St. Vincent’s 100th anniversary committee, reconnecting with more than 90 students she taught there.Jacqueline Cano, a nursing student at Chaminade University in Honolulu who graduated from St. Ferdinand, praised her first grade teacher for the strong academic foundation and sound moral compass she instilled in students.“I developed a love for reading in her class through her book reports and the ‘Book It’ program,” said Cano. “Sister Stephen made learning fun, and she has inspired a sense of confidence and wonder in her students. The primary lesson that I learned from Sister Stephen was to implement the Golden Rule in all aspects of my life and treat everyone as I wanted to be treated.”“I’ve always said I wanted the students to enjoy school, and I think I accomplished that part,” said Sister Daly. “I want them to love to read. Even now that we have iPads in the classroom, I still want the students to read a book. I know I’m old-fashioned, but there are some good things about being old-fashioned.”She’s had no problems adapting the iPads in the classroom, but says posting grades on the computer is more difficult for her than filling out the report cards of yesteryear. She won’t miss the classroom paperwork which has increased over the decades.“I guess I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve done,” reflects Sister Daly. “I love my kids. I’ve enjoyed working with parents.” She followed her mother’s advice to see the interconnectedness of children and their families and the benefits of maintaining an upbeat attitude. “I’ve always tried to look for the positive,” said Sister Daly.She has been an active fund-raiser for the parish, and is famous for being the “churro queen” at the June fiesta, where her team sold 2,700 churros at $2 apiece. “Nobody can believe we sell that many,” said the high-energy nun who even enjoys yard duty after all these years.“Everybody thinks I’m going to be bored in retirement, but I don’t think so,” said Sister Daly. “I think I’m looking forward to sitting in the chair for a couple of hours and reading a book.” She also hopes to continue to travel with her sister, visiting Ireland where they have relatives, and someday traveling to Phoenix where a fellow CSJ who is a medical doctor is opening a 50-bed respite care facility for the homeless.“Whatever I do, I know there’s something out there I can do for another few years,” said Sister Daly.“I think she’s a wonder,” remarked her sister, helping pack up the first grade classroom at the end of St. Ferdinand’s 200-day school year. “I don’t think I could teach first graders all those years. She had the patience for them.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0706/daly/{/gallery}