Kids’s Home retirement a bittersweet finish for Palmerstons | Training
Robin Palmerston said that every year she cries on the last day of class at the children’s home’s Montessori school. This year, she said, she will probably cry even more.
This will be Palmerstons last year as owner and director of the Santa Maria Children’s Home, after 39 years of involvement with the school. She and her husband David will “retire” from school on July 2nd.
“It means a lot to me to have school and be involved in the education of so many children,” Palmerston said on Wednesday. “That’s nice. So this is a big end of the year so that we don’t reopen our program next year.”
Palmerston, now 66, was in training to be a teacher – she eventually earned a Masters of Education from USC – when she began researching for her son, who was already more advanced than what was taught in public schools.
She found that the Montessori system met her two main needs – it was open and accommodated special needs.
When a Montessori school opened on South Broadway in 1982, her son was “the first boy,” she said, and she stepped in to fill a vacancy on the board.
Two years later she became a teacher there, then a teacher and director. But the original owners decided to either close or sell the school.
At one point, while doing research on schools years earlier, Palmerston said aloud, “Maybe one day I could own a school.” That was their chance.
“It wasn’t exactly my timing, but the opportunity came up so we as a family decided to open it up,” she said.
Palmerston said they couldn’t afford both the South Broadway building and their home, so she looked for a place to live and teach and found a private home that was being converted into a school at 1331 E. Foster Road had been.
“I’m really grateful that my husband has been so supportive of what we’ve done over the years,” said Palmerston of repairs and improvements to the school. “Without him we wouldn’t have made it.”
Over the years the Children’s House has cared for children ages 2 to 8, and all four Palmerston children have been tutored there.
“I have 12 grandchildren and nine of them came to our school and that is a gift,” she said. “Most of them – eight, I think – were my students in my class.”
The responsibility for teaching
Palmerston said teaching children was a huge responsibility that sometimes weighed heavily on them and extended beyond the students attending class as it helped families through the loss of a parent and child.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Palmerston arrived at the school around 7:00 am aware of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“A mother came up to me trembling and handed me her children and said, ‘I need to make sure my husband is fine after he met in the Twin Towers,'” Palmerston said. “Here I looked after and looked after very young children. … We had to look after each other as employees, then go home and look after our own families. “
The children were terrified and knew that all the planes were on the ground.
“One child asked me, ‘What do we do when we see an airplane?’” She recalls. It was a difficult question to answer.
Back then, the school usually held a festival of lights in December. That year they considered canceling it but decided to keep going and people came.
“It made this gathering even more poignant and touching that people come together and not be afraid of each other,” said Palmerston.
She has other fond memories of school traditions – attending the city’s peace week, a float for the Elks Rodeo Parade every year, and running a poetry challenge.
For a year the students wrote poetry and wrote everything in a book, even formatting the pages themselves.
Always a teacher
In addition to teaching at Children’s House, Palmerston has taught at the Family Partnership Charter School, which moved to campus in 2007, taught early childhood education at Hancock College, and volunteered at an agency that works with adults with disabilities.
“There really wasn’t a time I wasn’t a teacher,” said Palmerston. “I love teaching kids because it’s so delightful. Children ask questions that adults would not ask. If I don’t know the answer, I have to help them find the answer, help them with their research. “
She is also a member of the Santa Barbara County’s Childcare Planning Committee, and after Children’s House retires, she plans to continue advocating for more childcare options, particularly in new housing developments.
The Family Partnership Charter School continues to operate on site, Palmerston said, and she hopes another program like hers will move in and continue to educate young children.
She also hopes that the students who walked through the doors of the children’s home will remember what they experienced there – like the butterflies that she began to introduce children to the wonders of life.
“We have bred butterflies every year for 37 years and made a lot of it by releasing them,” she said. “This miracle is magical. I hope this is a good present that you got for being here. “