CARLSBAD — Thomas “TR” Robertson will be leaving a legacy behind at Carlsbad High School when he retires at the end of this school year.
Students and staff know him by the movie posters strewn across his classroom walls, his hundreds of ties, his easygoing chuckle and his curled mustache.
And he has had plenty of time to leave his mark. Robertson has been teaching at Carlsbad High School for the past 44 years.
“He’s a great teacher, and he’s fun to be around, and he is Carlsbad High School,” said senior Emma Rudolph.
Replying to her praise, Robertson laughed, “I’m old.”
Robertson began as a student teacher at Carlsbad High School in 1968, and was hired on fully the following year.
He has taught multiple generations of students from the same Carlsbad families and has had students, that in later years, have returned to Carlsbad High School to teach or coach.
“I just did weird stuff here and (the administration) liked it,” he said of his year of student teaching.
“I taught poetry classes at lunchtime, analyzing the poetry of the day because most of it was peace and love and freedom and anti-war…I offered (the classes) to the students in the library and packed the house with it. And so (the administration) thought it was pretty strange and creative, so they ended up offering me a job.”
And with the exception of when he was drafted from 1971-73 to serve in the Navy during the Vietnam War, Robertson has taught ever since.
Throughout his career, Robertson has taught English classes, advised the school newspaper, and served as athletic director. His domain has been ASB and yearbook for the past 38 years, and in recent years he has also taught sociology.
He said his favorite part of every year is the first pep rally and home football game because of all of the excitement that comes with it.
Though he counts bringing airbands and Lancer Day, the school’s homecoming celebration, as his top accomplishments.
He designed airbands, a competition where students lip synch and perform popular songs, in 1983 and initiated the first competition between Carlsbad High School and El Camino High School.
Airbands became so popular, “Before you knew it, we were being sponsored by Pepsi Cola and other people, and we were holding the finals down in the Rimac Center in front of about 6,000 people,” he said.
As for the school’s homecoming celebration, Robertson has helped develop it into a full day community event.
Lancer Day consists of a half-day of classes, followed by a school assembly elaborately decorated according to the year’s homecoming theme, a parade with floats representing schools and clubs throughout the city, a huge halftime dance performance during the football game, and the dance the next day.
“We’re the only school in the state of California that does this,” he pointed out.
But at 67 years old, Robertson said he is getting worn out by the big school events and teaching full time.
“The only reason I’m retiring is I’m getting a bit tired,” he said. “I feel good about it, I’m sad. But it’s time. I’m ready to slow down a bit and do some other things.”
He said he looks forward to traveling with his wife and playing more with his two dogs.
Plus, he is excited about new leadership taking over his classes and bringing in new technology to enhance school events.
Furthermore, he said he will have more than enough reason to visit the school because one of his sons, Chris Robertson, will continue teaching history at Carlsbad High School.
He said that he will of course miss his students and all that they have taught him, including patience.
“I think you achieve by working hard. So a lot of times students can get a little lazy, and so I’m constantly on them on working and doing and striving and things like that,” he said.
“But they’ve taught me that they’re kids, that they’re going to make mistakes and that they’re going to have great accomplishments some days and other days it’s just going to be in the toilet. But they also taught me just how incredibly creative they can be.”
And as 44 years of teaching at Carlsbad High comes to an end, he said that he never regrets pursuing other career paths.
“I just knew I wanted to teach and that’s all I ever wanted to know. Never wanted to do anything but that.”