Longtime Lowell Whiteman teacher Joe Roberts retires | SteamboatToday.com

Longtime Lowell Whiteman teacher Joe Roberts retires

Joe Roberts ends ‘wonderful ride’ of 43-year career at school

Jack Weinstein

Joe Roberts hugs his wife, Pat, and speaks to the crowd Saturday at his retirement party at The Lowell Whiteman School near Steamboat Springs. "It was a pretty overwhelming thing," Roberts said. "It was more than I expected. It was probably more than I deserved."

Joel Reichenberger

— Joe Roberts said when he and his wife, Pat, moved to Steamboat Springs from San Diego in 1968, they didn't expect to stay forever.

Roberts took a job teaching at The Lowell Whiteman School. Then 24, he had just completed his graduate degree in biology. He and Pat had been married only a year. Roberts said they were looking for something new and different, an "adventure."

They found it.

After 43 years of teaching math, chemistry and biology at Whiteman, Roberts retired this year.

"It's been life-transformative," Roberts said about his teaching career. "It's been magnificent."

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As much as Whiteman, his students and colleagues all left an impression on Roberts, they said he left an indelible mark on them.

"We're going to feel his absence, but I don't think we're ever going to lose his essence," Dean of Students Joanne "Doc" Lasko, who has worked with Roberts for 26 years, said last week. "It's in the fiber of this place. He helped make this place what it is."

Lasko called Roberts "a combination of everything."

In addition to his teaching duties, Roberts served as the academic dean and dean of students during his time at Whiteman. Since 1975, Roberts has served as the director of alumni relations. In the early 1980s, he initiated the school's annual Desert Week trip. And Roberts has led countless foreign travel trips.

Lasko said his humor — "he would never hurt a flea, but he cuts to the jugular" — is part of what makes Roberts an effective teacher. It's also part of the reason his students revere him.

"He's a funny, enthusiastic teacher," said Lucy Newman, who took Roberts' Algebra 1 class this year and will be a sophomore next year. "He makes sure everyone knows what's going on, that everyone participates. He makes it fun to learn. He's awesome."

Head of School Walt Daub, who also is retiring this year, said another reason Roberts has been so effective is because he cares for his students.

"He loves kids, understands them and (as) with every gifted educator, he communicates with kids on their terms, but he's communicating his message," Daub said. "Because they appreciate that he cares for them so much, they allow him to hold them to high standards. … Just in general, he enjoys being with them and watching them develop."

Roberts said he loves the classroom, his interactions with students and working with the Whiteman faculty, but one of the most rewarding aspects of his tenure was serving as director of alumni relations.

In that role for the past 35 years, Roberts said he has watched his students grow up — through college, careers, marriages and children. Robert said many of them have become lifelong friends.

"I love that process, watching them grow up and participating," he said. "That's probably been the best."

Brant Crossan, who graduated last Friday with the Class of 2010, took three of Roberts' classes. Roberts also served as his adviser during Crossan's four years at the school. Crossan called Roberts an amazing person who took an interest in his life. He said Roberts always was there for him to offer not just advice about school, but about life.

"He's probably one of the greatest things that's ever happened to this school," Crossan said. "He's created an atmosphere that is Whiteman."

After more than four decades teaching, the only job Roberts ever had, he said it felt like the right time to retire. Roberts said there are some things he and his wife would like to do, but there's no list. They plan to stay in Steamboat but will spend more time with their children, Christopher and Julia in Boulder, and Katherine and their granddaughter, Siri, in Fort Collins.

Avery Globe, who will be a freshman next year, said she and Lucy Newman were sad when they learned Roberts wasn't returning next year. Newman said it's going to be a different place without Roberts. Globe said, "He'll be missed, a lot."

Roberts said if he could roll the clock back 20 years to continue teaching, he would, without a doubt.

"It's been an absolutely wonderful ride," he said. "I've enjoyed every year, enjoyed everything I've done."