Friends remember beloved San Benito school board member

Only have a minute? Listen instead
M.L. Garcia

SAN BENITO — Friends are remembering M.L. Garcia as a devoted school board trustee and beloved teacher who taught her students to become “selfless leaders.”

After her teaching career, Garcia served two terms on the San Benito school board.

Late Tuesday afternoon, police officers found her body in her home, David Favila, the city’s spokesman, said.

“Family and friends hadn’t heard from her in three to four days,” he stated. “When they arrived, no one answered the door so they made entry through a back door. They found her body in one of the rooms.”

Garcia, a longtime community leader, was the sister of former longtime school district Police Chief S.R. Garcia and the aunt of former Mayor Jack Garcia.

“It’s a sad loss for our community,” school board President Orlando Lopez, who served with Garcia on the board, said. “She was an educator who dedicated her professional career to impacting our wonderful kids in the district. She went on to become a public servant, so she gave back to her community. She will be dearly missed.”

Through most of their lives, Garcia and Sandra Tumberlinson were close friends, teaching together at the former San Benito Junior High School.

“M.L. was devoted to San Benito’s children,” Tumberlinson said. “She spent her life working for the good of the district. She was a kind person who went above and beyond the normal duties of a teacher.”

Like many of her students, Alex Mendez remembers Garcia as a teacher who worked to mold good leaders.

At Miller Jordan Middle School, Garcia taught social studies while serving as founder of Peer Assistance and Leadership Students, or PALS.

“We called her Miss M.L. She had such a profound impact,” Mendez, 36, a tax consultant in Houston, said. “Miss M.L., more than anything, genuinely educated young individuals to be good people. She was training us to be selfless leaders. She genuinely cared for you.”

In eighth grade, Mendez was a student in Garcia’s social studies class while a member of PALS.

“She was training us to be selfless leaders,” he said. “Miss M.L. taught us to be proper people — how to talk, how to walk, how to be respectful. She helped me break that shy character. We helped at teacher conferences. We were their little helpers. We would introduce speakers. We would even serve the food.”

In a corner of a classroom, Garcia kept the staples that helped her students make sandwiches, Mendez said.

“She had a nourishing environment — since some kids didn’t have meals at home,” he said. “She always had bread, peanut butter and jelly, and ham and bologna. If anyone was ever hungry, they could eat. She knew not everyone had the necessities.”