At age 42, Penny Hale walked away from a job she had loved for 18 years, teaching preschoolers for the Hesperia Recreation and Park District, and went back to college.


"You can't tell me that a single woman can't do it on her own," she said. "I was the oldest one in most of my classes. ... I knew I had to do it, that I had to finish."


And finish she did, getting her teaching certification at age 49. Today, she teaches kindergarten at Lime Street Elementary School.


"I plan on working until at least I'm 70," she said.


Hale teaches 32 kindergartners most of the day, although that number doubles for an hour each day, when her class merges with that of Sarah Murray, her daughter, who also teaches kindergarten at the school.


"Have you ever seen the movie 'Cocoon,' how (extraterrestrial cocoons) revitalize (senior citizens)?" Hale asked. "That's what the kids do for me: I get their energy."


Of course, there are limits: She still falls asleep most nights at 9 p.m. But the intrinsic rewards keep her motivated.


"I think that if I can make these kids feel like school is fun, that can impact them for the rest of their lives," she said.


And she's gotten proof of that over the past two decades, as Hale is constantly running into former students and parents of students wherever she goes.


"It's really hard to be a teacher nowadays, it really is, because they ask so many things of you," she said. "But I love my job, I really do. ... It pays more than money."