Areli Munoz grew up admiring her father’s work ethic as a groundskeeper who is going on 43 years with the Hollister School District. Now, as a first-year second-grade teacher at R.O. Hardin Elementary School, she gets the unique opportunity to see her dad in action on campus each week.
“It’s really nice to see him,” she said. “I remember when I was younger, I would always try to go where he was when I was a student. Now as a teacher, it’s really nice to see him. I’ve always been proud of him because of how hardworking he is.”
She said people run into her and routinely mention how hard Ernesto Munoz works.
“When I started working, too, I knew I had some big shoes to fill. Being his daughter, I felt a lot of pressure.”
Their work dynamic worked out due to his longevity as a groundskeeper for the district and her aspirations to become an educator.
Ernesto Munoz’s journey goes back to when he was 10 years old and moved here from Mexico. He attended Sunnyslope School and graduated from Hollister High School, deciding to immediately work upon graduation. He had worked for the city the prior summer and someone there recommended him for a district work program.
“I started with the district right after high school,” he said. “I got into a program that helped people get jobs. That’s how I started working for the district.”
He said back then, there were just four schools in the district—Sunnyslope, Fremont School, R.O. Hardin and Rancho San Justo—and one other groundskeeper, or gardener as the position was known. The initial plan was for him to stay for just a couple years as part of that program, but when his scheduled time was up the district asked him to stay on board because there were more schools being built.
Now there are nine schools and four groundskeepers, he said, adding how he has seen a lot of people come and go over the years.
“We mow. We fertilize. We trim bushes. We prune trees. We edge and use blowers,” he said, naming off some of his primary duties along with anything else that comes up.
Sometimes he gets called in when something goes wrong at one of the schools, such as a couple weeks ago when a valve got stuck at Maze Middle School and he had to find it, turn it off and turn it back on again off hours.
Areli, meanwhile, grew up in Hollister as an only child. She went to Sunnyslope and Maze, and graduated from the high school in 2012 before attending Fresno State University. In the summer of 2013, she started working at Chamberlain’s Children Center and worked there for nearly eight years. This was while in school and after graduating with a bachelor’s in liberal studies with a concentration in child development.
She enjoyed her time at Chamberlain’s, but after the pandemic hit the school eventually shut down during the distance learning period. From there, she worked as a behavioral specialist at a Gilroy clinic and then applied with the Hollister district in 2021, initially working as a paraprofessional.
She started a credential program in January along with student teaching. Since she couldn’t continue as a paraprofessional while teaching, she switched over to substitute teaching before gaining the role as a full-time second-grade teacher. She said she will finish her credential program in December.
Her dad emphasized how proud he is of her, as well.
“I never thought she would be there before I retired,” said Ernesto Munoz, who is 63 and hopes to retire in a couple years. “So hopefully I’ll put in 45 years. I hardly miss any days.”
He said he enjoys seeing his daughter at least once a week at R.O. Hardin.
“We don’t have too much time to talk, but we just say hi and bye,” he said, noting how he will routinely wave to her while on the mower.