By Cheryl Ryan
Hands down Anne Hubbard was my kid’s favorite elementary school teacher.
I’m not sure how she got away with it but during her tenure at Williams Elementary School, she rescued a small, white, flea ravaged, eczema-prone dog and somehow convinced the Principal to allow the dog into her classroom each day. The little guy quickly became an adored school mascot. This was typical Anne — everyone was always welcome in her room. I’ve followed her career and watched as she moved from the classroom to Superintendent at the Hope School District in Santa Barbara.
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been in the classroom for 20 years and 11 years as an administrator.
What made you decide to leave the classroom and go into administration?
I had no intention of becoming an administrator but when I lost my Mom unexpectedly I became depressed and was no longer finding joy in the classroom. When I went to a therapist she suggested that I go back to school. I applied to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and I went back to school to train teachers.
Once there, the head of the School of Education pushed me towards the Educational Leadership & Administration Program based on my experience and ample time in the classroom —I was one of the oldest students in the program. I feared going into administration would keep me from interacting with children and would be more about parents and paperwork (which it’s certainly some of that).
For the first time in 20 years, I was back at school. I had two of our children with me while my husband stayed in San Jose to work. I loved it. I loved attending school again and being with my kids in their classrooms and working in the PTA. It was a very special time for me.
Part of the Educational Leadership & Administration Program is to do fieldwork in the schools. When the opportunity came to do my fieldwork for K-12 in Paso Robles I took it. And then was offered a year-long position as Assistant Principal in Paso Robles Joint Unified District and I took that too. Once working as an administrator I found that I got to spend plenty of time with the students and I especially got to spend time with those children that needed extra attention and those are the kids that really tug at my heart.
Once back in the bay area I took a position as Assistant Principal at Lawson Middle School in Cupertino CA. It turned out to be such a long commute and I didn’t have any time to spend with my family. This coupled with my husband’s recent retirement sparked a heart-to-heart about finding a better work/life balance. We’ve always loved Santa Barbara so I applied for a Principal role at Washington Elementary School and got it. We sold our house in San Jose and bought a new one around the corner from my new school.
After two years in Santa Barbara, I got my dream job as Superintendent and Principal of the Cayucos Elementary School District, which is about a two-hour drive from Santa Barbara. I always said that if I got that job I will have arrived. I loved my job and while I waited for my husband and the kids to join me, they had other plans. They were happy where they were and did not want to move again. So I finished out my year of weekly commuting and completed my Doctorate during the workweek evenings. Once back in Santa Barbara I joined the Hope Elementary School District as Superintendent, which is where I happily remain today and am so glad that I chose administration.
What else have you been doing besides work?
Along with raising our children we’ve helped raise six foster kids. Each of them has come to me through my schools in one way or another. I feel like certain beings are put in front of me for a reason. I just can’t walk away. The goal of the foster care system is to reunify children with their parents. So I take care of them when their parents are incarcerated or otherwise unable to care for them and then try to work within the system for the best possible outcomes. I’ve lost contact with some as they’ve reconnected with their families. Others will always be a part of our family. My foster daughter has become a teacher now and I love seeing how she tackles that. She also has a child of her own, which makes me a happy Grandma.
What advice would you give to new teachers?
Making a connection with your kids is most important. Really get to know them and their circumstance. Once you have that connection they will want to work with you and the rest will come.
As parents get their kids back to school following this COVID year what advice would you give them?
Most parents want their kids back at school and teachers want that too. My district has already gone back. We’ve got 14% still remote with 86% back at school but it looks different. We are doing a lot outside, social distancing, and a wide range of other changes. So when parents say we used to do this… just understand it won’t be the same for a while. I would ask parents to have empathy for teachers and understand and accept whatever differences have to be made for as long as they last.
What are the top two things you would change about our present education system?
I know it’s the same old thing but funding. Schools are so much more than they used to be. We often need to find clothing, food and now mental health care for our students. There’s never enough. The money provided to schools would minimize the money needed later in the criminal and social systems. There aren’t ways to increase revenues in education. Society expects so much from education and it needs to come from funding. It’s just that simple.
Secondly, education is stuck. We are a difficult entity to change. We’ve seen some changes in the last 10 years. We need to be more intuitive about the ways that children learn. There aren’t just three learning styles. There are 100 unique styles and 100 different ways to engage kids. We shouldn’t keep using the same education formula. We need to keep trying new things.
What are you most proud of?
Impacting kids. I’m proud to see my daughter teaching and watching how she approaches that. And I love following all the families that I’ve met throughout my education career. That is a huge part of me. I’m so glad I get to see many of them on Facebook.
If you had one person you would love to meet who would it be?
I need two. George Clooney and Ruby Bridges. At six years old, Ruby Bridges was the first African American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, during the New Orleans desegregation crisis of 1960. She remains an educational activist to this day.