NEWHALL – Teaching started as a simple part-time job and ended up being her mission in life. Sulma Gurrola was a senior at Loyola Marymount University pursuing a degree to become a doctor when she picked up a teaching gig to help pay for tuition. It was then that she realized that her true calling was in a classroom, not an examination room. “It was then that I knew the difference between a profession and a calling,” she said. Gurrola finished her degree in pre-medicine and biology anyway. But after graduation she returned to school for her teaching credential and a master’s degree in language arts and literature. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsAfter four years at Arminta Elementary School in North Hollywood, she was hired at Newhall Elementary School, where today she teaches kindergarten and first grade every day and a family literacy program three nights a week. She has worked there for five years. Her days start at 7 a.m., when she arrives at the neighborhood school to prepare for her 17 pupils arriving an hour later. Around noon, the 11 kindergartners in her class go home, leaving her with all first-graders until school lets out. The two grades were combined for her class this year to accommodate a large kindergarten class. On Friday, Gurrola helped her kindergartners pack up for the day. The children stuffed art projects into their backpacks and pointed out their many other works hanging on the classroom walls. It was only noon, and it had already been a busy day. It started with a tea party for her students’ mothers that she organized. The night before, she was up late for a banquet where she was recognized as Teacher of the Year for her school, a title awarded to the 33-year-old by a vote of her colleagues. “She goes over and beyond all the time,” said Traci Curtis, Newhall Elementary assistant principal, explaining why teachers put their vote behind her. “She puts her heart and soul into her students.” Curtis oversees the Even Start program at the school where Gurrola teaches two-hour parenting classes to families on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. There are 30 families involved in the program, which promotes literacy as a way to fight poverty. Gurrola, who grew up speaking Spanish at home, helps parents in the group learn English. She also teaches some moms and dads about new ways to rear their children and to guide them into academic activities at home. She recalled a time when one mother returned to thank the program for teaching her new ways to discipline her children. The mother had employed those methods at home and recognized a change in her kids and her relationship with them. “They tell us how we have affected their lives and improved their lives,” she said. “That’s the reason why I do it.” [email protected] (661) 257-5254160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!