Since 1989, John Gonzales has been a bridge for Hesperia students: He's taught the ones who speak English at home how to speak Spanish and taught the ones who speak Spanish at home how to speak English.


"I've always been teaching," he said in his Sultana High School classroom. "I did 20 years in the Air Force."


In addition to teaching airmen about weaponry, he taught catechism at his local Catholic Church.


But when the new school year starts in August, Gonzales won't be there: He'll be off on his second retirement, having volunteered to make room in the budget for less-expensive, less-experienced fellow employees.


"If I retire, they can hire two new teachers or three new classified," he said.


He started his second career, as a high school teacher, at age 43, at Hesperia High School.


"When I first started teaching, I was just out of the military. I was a little strict," he grinned. "I've mellowed over the years."


Indeed, he refers to his current teaching method as "organized chaos."


During class, Gonzales is typically all over the classroom, over by the board, zipping in among students' desks, and to displays posted on various walls -- especially if the class is clicking with the lesson.


"If I feel like I'm getting" through to students, "that's when I get energized."


In contrast, the quiet tedium of testing days leaves him drained, he said.


Although he's retiring, Gonzales is unlikely to spend much time with his feet up.


"Instead of 65 [years old], I feel like 18," he said. "I tell people, 'I don't know what I'm going to do when I grow up.'"


Gonzales plans to leverage one of his military benefits, riding military flights on a "space available" basis to visit friends and places he's loved, including Chile, Panama, Italy, Germany and Greece.


He also plans on doing community work, either locally in Apple Valley or through the Air Force.


Or he might go back to work, and start yet another career.


"I just got an email from a friend of mine, he's 75, and he's just retired for the third time," Gonzales said. "We choose to be happy, [or] we choose to be bored."


But he'll definitely miss teaching, he said.


"I've been joking with my students, [telling them] I'm going to put my two dogs on the sofa, pull up a video. 'Watch this: There's going to be a quiz.'"


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.