Police were searching for a well-known music teacher after he disappeared following going on medical leave in Torrance, authorities said Monday.
"It's just not in his character to turn his back on the school or to not respond when the school and school district is looking for answers," Mario Di Leva, a colleague of Valenzuela's, said.
Ernie Valenzuela, 60, was last seen a week prior when he visited a doctor in Long Beach, Torrance police said.
"That's just not like him," Tracy Valenzuela, his former wife, said.
The Hull Middle School teacher who has worked at the school for 15 years was due back to teach, but never showed up, making those concerned he may lose his job.
"He's pretty well known in school," Sean Yokoe, a parent of a student, said. "He seemed like a very good guy involved with the kids so it's kinda odd he would just disappear."
The school district began calling loved ones, and his former wife and his mother didn’t have a clue where he might be, police said.
Top news of the day
His former wife filed the missing person’s report when he was nowhere to be found.
She said he has a medical condition that requires him to take leave at times, but she said he would never leave the job he loves. She also said he can't go without his health benefits, which have now expired.
"He's a music teacher -- he loves his job. He's passionate about the kids, and he would not do anything to jeopardize his job," Tracy said.
Doctors said at his last visit, he appeared alive and well.
"We want to find him, not just well, but find him so we can make sense of all this," Mario Di Leva, a colleague, said.
Valenzuela was described as having gray hair, brown eyes, measuring 6-feet 1-inch tall, and weighing 210 pounds.