Patricia C. Martinez, a teacher for almost 50 years who influenced generations of Elk Grove children, died Aug. 4 of pancreatic cancer, her family said. She was 82.
Ms. Martinez, who began teaching in San Jose in the 1950s, was a familiar figure in the classroom as Elk Grove was transformed from a small, rural community to a booming city. After a decade spent raising a family and living in Venezuela, she settled in Sacramento and joined the Elk Grove Unified School District in 1968.
She taught mostly first-graders for 42 years at McKee, Feickert, Butler and Beitzel elementary schools. She loved teaching youngsters to read and inspired children with lessons about the arts and field trips to museums. She tutored students who didn't speak English, mentored rookie teachers and welcomed new families to Elk Grove.
"She was a very gentle, loving woman," said Beitzel principal Marty Martinez, who is not related to her. "She knew Spanish from living in Venezuela and worked with Spanish-speaking students. She loved languages and the arts and teaching kids from those perspectives. She was like a Renaissance woman."
Ms. Martinez retired in 2010 after 14 years at Beitzel, where the school's performing arts stage was dedicated in her honor. Until June, she volunteered at the school three days a week to tutor students in reading.
Patricia Claire Hillhouse was born on June 25, 1931, in Dorris, a tiny Siskiyou County town on the Oregon border. She settled with her family in Angels Camp and graduated with high honors from San Jose State College in 1952. She earned a master's degree in education from University of California, San Francisco, in 1976.
She began teaching in the Alum Rock Unified School District in San Jose and married another teacher, Gilbert T. Martinez, in 1957. She left education to start a family and spent three years in Venezuela, where her husband taught school for a U.S. economic development program. The marriage later ended in divorce.
A longtime Sacramento resident, Ms. Martinez was an accomplished pianist and world traveler. She snorkeled in Micronesia at 65, went on safari in Zambia at 80 and visited Berlin before, during and after the Berlin Wall fell. She visited a total of 24 countries in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Pacific with her daughter Sylvie, who worked for the U.S. State Department.
Meanwhile, she was a beloved teacher and well-known figure in Elk Grove.
"I'd go to church there when I visited, and Mom would come with me," her daughter said. "I knew two people, but everybody would come up and talk with her. She loved it."
Ms. Martinez is survived by her children Sylvie of Virginia, Mitchell of Sacramento and Sean of Pleasanton; a brother, Clayton Hillhouse of Alaska; sisters Sherry Anderson of Lindsay and Leona Sanguinetti of Sonora; and four grandchildren.
A celebration of her life is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at Maeola R. Beitzel Elementary School, 8140 Caymus Drive, Sacramento.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.