CARLSBAD — This year Carolyn Robertson, a health tech at Hope Elementary, is being celebrated as the longest serving classified employee in the Carlsbad Unified School District. Her husband Tom “T.R.” Robertson, a teacher at Carlsbad High, is the longest serving credentialed employee.
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was the record of the year when they met back in 1973 at a going away party for a mutual friend.
T.R. had just returned to his teaching job at Carlsbad High, that he began in 1969, after fulfilling a three-year commitment to the Navy.
They married in April 1974.
Shortly after being laid off from her job in the banking industry in September, Carolyn was hired as a health tech at Valley Middle, working four hours a day. In 1976 she was replaced with two district nurses but rehired in 1977, dividing her day between Valley Middle and Carlsbad High.
Their son Christopher was born in 1977 and Brian in 1979.
Also in 1979 she helped open up Kelly Elementary with Principal Don Le May. And in 1987 she opened Hope Elementary with Principal Cheryl Ernst, who later became superintendent.
This is Carolyn’s last year with the school district. She’s retiring in June.
“I want to take watercolor lessons, go to the Wellness Center and do things I’ve always wanted to do,” she explained. “The most important factor in lasting 24 years at one school is the wonderful colleagues and friends I have made at Hope. It’s the support, the fun atmosphere and the great team work that has made it easy to go to work every day.”
A lot has changed since she began her job in 1974. Although she took the initiative to become an EMT, she says no college degree was required, just a first aid card and a driver’s license. She was also required to drive kids home if they got sick.
“Today, the district conducts background checks on health techs,” she said. “They’re required to have a two-year degree, advanced first aid and CPR.”
She explains this is because
specialized skills are required to operate sophisticated equipment such as defibrillators and to accommodate students with special needs such as diabetes and seizures.
Although Carolyn is looking forward to a leisurely retirement, T.R. says it’s not for him.
“I said to Tom, ‘You know you are probably working for free. You probably could get more in retirement,” she said. “He replied, ‘It’s a hobby for me. I love what I’m doing.’”
As the yearbook and ASB teacher, T.R. is responsible for assemblies, pep rallies, football and basketball season, blood drives and the prom. He’s also Academic League Moderator and volleyball coach. After 43 years on the job, he estimates he’s taught two to three generations of local families.
“Everywhere I go in Carlsbad people say, ‘T.R., do you remember me?” he explained. “People change, they lose their hair, but I say, ‘yes.’”
T.R. is particularly proud of former students including Brett Swain and Brandon Chillar of the Green Bay Packers, and Ted Johnson of the New England Patriots, some of whom have had their jerseys retired at the school.
“I tell kids, ‘You’d be hard pressed to find any school in the nation that has three championship Super Bowl rings,” he said. “Ted has two rings and Brett has one. It’s quite an accomplishment.”
T.R. has his own fans, including district Superintendent Maggie Stanchi.
“T.R. is someone who’s here before everyone else in the morning and, anytime there is a student activity, here’s here until the lights go out,” she said. “He’s a dedicated educator and a Lancer through and through. What T.R. does best is listen to kids and help them enjoy high school.”
Although Carolyn and T.R. won’t be retiring together, that won’t deter them from their love of world travel. Since the late 1990s, they have worked as chaperones on student trips offered through EF Tours. “We started doing it when we had no money because our kids were in college,” said T.R. Today, their son, Chris, a world history and anthropology teacher at Carlsbad High for the past 10 years, joins them as a chaperone whenever he can.