The last day of school is often chaos with cupcakes. But in June the students at Oakland's Hillcrest Elementary School got a big surprise. There were cupcakes, but something else, too.
It was the final school day of the year and Hillcrest's 300 children were assembled at "morning meeting" when wedding music started to blare from a boom box. Miss Chang, the school's beloved first-grade teacher, appeared in a wedding dress. Slowly, she descended the stairs to the schoolyard. Waiting for her there was Mr. Inclan, the school's popular physical education teacher. And more magically, he was wearing a suit and tie.
It was the first time anyone had seen the gym teacher in long pants.
The kids went wild. Principal Beverly Rothenberg led a six-minute ceremony that was both legal and moving. And by the time the bell rang, Candace Chang Inclan, 35, and Jesse Inclan, 50, were back in Miss Chang's - ahem, Ms. Inclan's - classroom. The rest of the day was spent celebrating with games and - of course, cupcakes.
"A perfect wedding day," remembers Candace, who says the moment of the wedding kiss was most amusing. With students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, there were both "oooooooohs" and "eeewwwwws."
The path to this crazy wedding day was nearly as unusual as the wedding itself. In 2002, Candace's best friend was house-sitting at Jesse's Orinda home while he was on vacation with his then-wife. Though Candace had even done laundry at his home, the two didn't meet for another year. Their paths crossed at Hillcrest, where Candace had just started teaching and where Jesse worked half time. With both in long-term relationships, it took until 2006 for them to become friends. By then Candace had broken a decadelong entanglement and Jesse was swamped with a divorce.
A friendship was born of a shared love of hiking and an ear to help each other through rough life transitions. In 2007, however, Jesse felt something shift, but he had hesitations about blowing the friendship. Taking a direct approach, before school on a Friday he asked his co-worker straight out if she had feelings for him.
"Jesse is never early to work," Candace says coyly, "so I knew it was important when he asked to talk." She admitted that she, too, wanted to see where things between them might lead.
At work, the romance was kept under wraps, despite rumors. A year later, after Candace had proposed and Jesse accepted, their colleagues were free to settle the bets that had speculated on their relationship.
Jesse, who was born in Mexico City, wonders what might have happened if they'd met earlier in life. Candace was born in Korea.
"It's a miracle we found each other," he says. Candace, smiling, obviously agrees.
What would you tell your students about love? Candace: "Don't settle - I was (spinning) my wheels in my other relationship; this one works." Jesse: "You never know where you will find it."