Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 01 August 2007 09:43
|Tim Robertson comes to the position of junior high and senior high principal at Peabody Burns with 20 years experience as a classroom teacher and 15 years as state director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Click image to enlarge|
Just because Tim Robertson’s career path to his first principalship as the lead educator at Peabody-Burns middle school and high school has been unconventional, don’t think it hasn’t prepared him well for the job.
“I had a superintendent tell me I’m a nontraditional first-year principal because most of them are a lot younger than I am,” said Robertson, who is in his mid-50s.
“I tell everybody I’m seasoned,” he added with a smile but also some conviction.
“I have taught for over 20 years in the classroom and have 15 years experience running the Fellowship of Christian Athletes here in Kansas,” Robertson said. “So I feel I’ve been an administrator because I’ve done all the things an administrator does.
“I’ve just never had the title of principal until now.”
Robertson grew up in Pittsburg and Wellington, graduating from Wellington High in 1968.
He attended Southwestern College for a year, transferred to Oklahoma University on a baseball scholarship, then came back to Southwestern, where he graduated in 1973 with a degree in biology.
He was married to Sharron, a fellow Wellingtonian, while they were in college. After graduation, they took teaching jobs in Linn—he in biology and she in elementary music. They have raised two adult daughters.
After two years in Linn, the couple taught at Frankfort for four years. At that point, Robertson decided to boost the family’s financial well-being by selling insurance back in Wellington. But he discovered, “I wasn’t very good at it.”
In 1982, Robertson moved back into the classroom at Wellington and also coached basketball. Robertson taught at Derby from 1985 to 1990 before becoming the FCA state director, a position he held until 2004.
Sensing a call back to the classroom, Robertson accepted a position at Campus High School in Haysville.
“When I started teaching again, I felt the itch to not be in the classroom anymore and try my hand at administration,” Robertson said.
He continued teaching at Campus while working through Baker University on a master’s degree in school leadership, which he received this spring.
Robertson said he interviewed at several schools, and even turned down a couple of job offers, before accepting an offer from Peabody-Burns.
“We just love working and living in a small town—it’s a lot more personal,” he said. “We had always said that if we ever got the opportunity, we’d like to move back to a small town.”
Although this is his first job as a principal, Robertson said the combination of classroom teaching and FCA administration has prepared him for the role.
“My passion, regardless of what I’ve done in my career, has always been trying to make a difference in the life of kids,” he said. “I feel I have a good understanding of high school and junior high kids, and I feel I have a very good understanding how teachers feel and function because I was one for 20 years.
“From the other side of it, I had the opportunity to work for FCA. I was basically outside the school realm, but my place of business was in schools—that’s how FCA operates. I visited between 200 and 250 schools a year, so I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in principal offices.”
Through those experiences, Robertson said he has a sense for what makes a good school. On his list of criteria are students and faculty who take pride in their facilities, hold high expectations for each other and are willing to try new things.
“One thing I’ve said a lot over the years, and still use today, is, ‘Did you wake up this morning and say, boy, I sure hope I’m average today?’
“Most people don’t want to be average. Sometimes we just succumb to average-ness. The schools I think are exceptional are schools where there is a high accountability for high expectations,” he said.
Robertson said he is by nature an encourager, whether it be with students or teachers.
“We’re going to expect big things of each other, and then we’re going to help each other try to achieve those things.
“My leadership style is very much a collaborative person,” he added. “If people feel they own part of the process, they’re going to be much more involved in the process.
Within parameters appropriate to their age, Robertson wants to include students, too.
“I hope to get the kids involved in ownership of their own education so they become interested in learning internally,” he said. “Teachers get worn out because they are trying to externally motivate those kids. I think our job is to transfer that motivation from external to internal.”
Robertson said he is a believer in extracurricular activities as a contributor to a student’s educational success.
“Generally, the more extracurricular activities they’re involved in, they better they seem to do in their school work,” he said.
As principal, Robertson sees his role as helping others figure out what their role is in the educational process—and then helping them become the best they can be in that role.
Though roles differ, the goal for staff is the same: To make a difference in the life of kids.
“Like it or not, we can’t just teach physics or English or algebra—we have to teach the whole child,” Robertson said. “That’s what we’re all about.
“We may not teach a kid all he should know about algebra, but we should be able to teach him a little bit about life and how to be successful in life.
“To me, that’s the purpose of education. We’re trying to produce people who are going to be successful in society.”