When La Cumbre Junior High School’s doors open for the 2012-13 school year, Alice TarBush will begin her 65th year of service in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Even though she is not scheduled to be at work on Monday when students return, she confided that since it is the first day of the new school year, she will be on campus.
“I miss it at summertime,” she said. “I just enjoy being at school.”
TarBush is not letting a little thing like a recent fall, resulting in a broken hip and the need to begrudgingly use a cane, slow her down or keep her from doing what she loves most: working with children.
Born in 1927 to Arthur and Lydia Chard, she was the first of the Chards’ five children. Her mother was a homemaker and her father shoed horses.
“My father had a truck with an anvil on it and he would go as far as Santa Ynez and, during the polo pony season, he would go down to Carpinteria,” TarBush said. “I am the sixth generation on my mother’s side and the third generation on my father’s side.”
As a child, TarBush attended Harding Elementary School, now Harding University Partnership School, and even then she knew that education would be her life.
“I am Taurus the bull headed,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher in second grade. I never changed my mind, and I never regretted it.”
The Chard family lived on Chino Street, and TarBush and three siblings would walk to school.
“One of my memories is that four of us were in school at the same time,” she said. “Harding was a very family-oriented neighborhood at that time. Girls always wore skirts and dresses to school. None of the girls wore jeans to school. Most of the games were intramural games between Wilson and Garfield and Harding schools. A lot of the parents didn’t drive, and there were no buses going back and forth, so we played intramural sports with the campuses closest to us.”
Asked about the academic structure of her elementary school, she said, “We had very talented people from the downtown [district] office that came in once a month for music, art and P.E. It was a special treat to have these specialists come in. We looked forward to it.
“I just always loved school. Homework was minimal. We didn’t have daily homework. We did most of our work at the school. We were encouraged to read at home as much as possible. School was not test-oriented. It was very student-oriented. There were academic goals, but it was not linked to state goals. The teachers worked together on certain goals. Teachers worked on grade level with each other and helped set up the program. Most of the classes were mixed with students of different abilities — kids who needed help and those who were high performers.”
When asked to identify differences in her education versus what she sees today, she said, “Kids are not that much different than what they were when I was a kid, but the expectations and problems are different.”
After her 6½ years at Harding, TarBush went on to La Cumbre Junior High and then Santa Barbara High School (Class of 1944).
In 1944, the University of California established a Santa Barbara campus on the Riviera, and TarBush enrolled in UCSB. In 1948, she had the distinction of being a member of the first four-year class to graduate from UCSB.
On Feb. 5, 1948, she was hired to teach at Roosevelt Elementary School for about a year. During the following three summers, when she wasn’t teaching, she studied at Stanford University. She earned a master’s degree as well as a supervisory and administrative credential.
In 1949, TarBush began working at Harding School as an upper grade teacher. About that same time, Chuck TarBush entered her life. They married and four children followed. Her beloved Chuck and son Allyn have since passed, but they are very much with her.
“Wonderful memories of past events keep them always alive in my heart,” she said. “Up until this month [when she broke her hip], I have found life rewarding with new paths to chart. Surely, I’m blessed. I have three siblings, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren too.”
Over the years, TarBush’s assignments have been at both the school site and district office. They have included oversight of the Gifted and Talented Education Program, elementary school curriculum development, elementary school teacher, substitute principal, vice principal and principal. Since 2002, she has served part-time at La Cumbre Junior High as a part-time reading support helper in the Read 180 program, CELDT tester, substitute teacher and vision/hearing tester in the district.
“Alice continues to be passionate about education and imparts the importance of education on the students she works with,” Principal Jo Ann Caines said. “She works with students in the Read 180 program, representing our lowest readers, to help strengthen reading fluency. Her kind and gentle manner instills confidence in her students and she assures them that ‘anything is possible’ through hard work.
“As a senior citizen and Harding and La Cumbre graduate, Alice loves to tell students about how education was in ‘the olden days’ and how her father was a blacksmith on the Westside, making kids stare and laugh in disbelief. Horses?
“Alice is still a kid at heart and definitely part of the multigenerational culture at La Cumbre. The students really got a thrill to see Alice in a dance video produced by the TV/Video Production class. Yes, Alice was shuffling.”
Welcome back to school, Alice TarBush!
(Note: Alice wasn’t the only one in her family to become a teacher. Her sister Shirley Kunze also pursued a teaching career. Kunze retired from the school district after almost 40 years in education. She taught at Peabody for the majority of her career. Since the mid-1990s, Kunze has been working as a substitute teacher, mostly at Peabody, and she serves as a vision and hearing teacher as well as a GATE tester.)
— Barbara Keyani is the administrative services and communications coordinator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.