Rowland Heights administrators retiring after 40 years of service
They're icons in the Rowland Unified School District. Teachers and administrators who have watched over generations of Rowland students.
Now after more than 40 years of service, Robbie Robinson and Susan Halliday are taking well-deserved retirements. They'll also be taking the well-wishes of colleagues, students and parents, who appreciate their tireless dedication.
Robbie Robinson believes in the American dream. He's lived it.
The Rowland High principal came to America from Scotland when he was only 16 years old.
The young Scotsman had quit school at 14 to work - he took jobs with a butcher, grocer and in construction. He wanted to become something more, so he left family and friends for a new start in America. He moved in with his uncle in El Monte.
"I'm Scottish by birth, but American by choice. I'm really living the American dream and I appreciate everything this country has done for me," Robinson said.
He credits his teachers at El Monte High School with giving him direction and confidence in his new life.
"They believed in me and I began to believe in myself. That's when I decided I want to become a high school teacher," Robinson said.
The young immigrant earned an associate's degree at Mt. San Antonio College, then a bachelor's degree at Cal State Los Angeles.
After receiving his teacher's credential, Robinson began teaching history at Giano School in WestCovina in 1970. He would never leave the Rowland Unified School District.
"I loved teaching, there's nothing more rewarding than working with students," the enthusiastic educator said.
In 1975, he was named Rowland's Teacher of the Year. That year, he also got his master's degree in education.
Later, Robinson would teach math at Nogales High School in La Puente, where he and Drew Meyer had great success building a math lab for struggling students. Meyer went on to become a school superintendent. He's now a college professor.
Robinson got into administration when he became the activities director at Nogales.
"I really enjoyed that job and became very close to the students who led the ASB. We still meet once a month to talk," he noted.
He transferred to Rowland High School, where he remained for 29 years. Robinson served as an assistant principal in many roles before becoming the principal last year.
"I've always loved coming to Rowland High, it's such a special place. The teachers, students and parents really care about education," he explained. "I would match our students with any other school in the world."
Robinson is certainly going out at the top of his career. He was just named administrator of the year by Superintendent Maria Ott.
Now after 40 years, the friendly principal wants to spend more time with his wife and family.
"I married my high school sweetheart. My wife is recovering from a serious illness, so I want to be there for her," Robinson said. "We want to travel and spend time with our grandchildren in Boston."
Susan Halliday is a hugger. The principal at Killian Elementary School can often be seen hugging her students, who love the special attention.
Her warmth radiates from the megawatt smile she flashes around the Rowland Heights campus.
"If you don't love children, you shouldn't be here. This is much more
Which is interesting, because Halliday hadn't planned to making education her life.
"I thought I would only teach four years, then quit to raise a family and play bridge with the ladies," Halliday laughed.
Those four years turned into 40 when she discovered her passion for teaching.
Halliday actually did her student teaching in the Rowland Unified School District.
"The district was growing by leaps and bounds, so they hired me the next year. They were building lots of new schools in those days," she recalled.
Halliday taught every grade from second through sixth in her first eight-year stint at Killian Elementary in Rowland Heights. She then taught at Shelyn Elementary for another eight years.
"I was working on my master's degree in administration, but I didn't know if I wanted to become a principal because I loved teaching in the classroom so much," she said.
When asked to intern as an administrator, Halliday agreed.
"I loved it. We had 850 students at Yorbita Elementary in La Puente, including 500 who were bused in every day. It was challenging," Halliday remembered.
Next, the new vice-principal split her time between Yorbita and Rincon Intermediate School in West Covina.
Promoted to principal, Halliday returned to her beloved Killian.
In 2007, Killian was named a National Blue Ribbon School. It also received Title I Academic Achievement Awards in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, Halliday was selected as Rowland Unified's Administrator of the Year.
Though she still has her passion for teaching, Halliday feels that it's time for her to retire.
"My husband has retired and we'd like to travel around the country. Besides, there's lots of great teachers and administrators in the district waiting for a chance," Halliday noted.
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