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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 11:00 pm | Fog/Mist 49º


Marymount Teacher Earns Looking Good Santa Barbara Award

Karen Robertson leads by example in teaching her students to be environmental stewards

Looking Good Santa Barbara’s Spirit of Service Awards ceremony was proof that the efforts of independent citizens can have a huge impact on the quality of life for many. The award recipients at Thursday’s luncheon at the Cabrillo Arts Center work tirelessly and independently to improve the environment and keep Santa Barbara the remarkably beautiful place that it is.

It was clear in listening to the descriptions of each of the seven recipients’ work that these people are not whiners or people who expect others to solve their problems. These people are doers in their communities, and their example inspires others.

In Mayor Helene Schneider’s words, “These recipients are people who not only keep Santa Barbara looking good, but by being and doing good, set an example of how one person doing a little can add up to a lot. This is about the cumulative effect of good.”

Marymount of Santa Barbara fourth-grade teacher Karen Robertson was one of the recipients.

Robertson won her Looking Good Santa Barbara award in the Waste Reduction category for the work she has done at Marymount to reduce waste. Her humor and enthusiasm have transformed several years of fourth-graders into “becoming good stewards of the earth,” as she so aptly put it upon receipt of the award.

The entire school has become cognizant and thoughtful about waste because of her efforts. Faculty-led Recycling Assemblies, in which different grades perform skits and make presentations on waste reduction research, provide opportunities for leadership, public speaking, creativity and fun for students in junior kindergarten through eighth grade. The assemblies are also effective. The amount of waste produced at the school has been dramatically reduced.

Robertson takes things a step further by having students recycle for a charity. She empowers her fourth-graders by allowing them to choose the beneficiaries of the money they earn. Recent charities have helped children with cancer (the American Childhood Cancer Organization), Japanese tsunami relief, provided clean drinking water in Africa and Central America (Help4Others), purchased school uniforms for children in Kenya and Uganda (Service Women’s Action Network) and benefited the Engineers Without Borders organization.

“It is important for students to believe in and feel a part of something bigger than themselves,” Head of School Andrew Wooden said.

Robertson’s efforts have helped students accomplish this goal. She came to Marymount after 12 years of teaching in Malaysia and Indonesia. Her global experience and thinking is apparent in the creativity and energy she brings to her classroom.

“I love seeing others grasp concepts and put ideas together,” she wrote. “I love plowing soil, planting seeds and seeing growth (literally and figuratively). The challenge of figuring out how to help students arrive at their own ‘Aha!’ moments infuses me with energy and enthusiasm. I enjoy getting creative juices flowing to see how best to help others discover the joys of discovery!”

Robertson teaches by example. On a recent field trip, she turned to her students and whispered, “Shhh, listen.” She wasn’t talking about listening to a docent, a tour guide or someone speaking or lecturing in any form. She was asking the students to be quiet and to slow down so that they could observe and absorb the magic of their surroundings, and you could have heard a pin drop. The students love that Robertson rides her bicycle to school to cut down on pollution and the use of resources.

Schneider summed up Robertson’s work at Marymount perfectly, describing it as the “cumulative effect of good” in so many ways.

— Molly Seguel is director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.

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