Cal High couple retires after more than 25 years

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by Nicola Yap, features editor

For many of this year’s graduating seniors, the earliest memories of Cal High include the ever-cheerful history teacher Rob Sloan proudly cracking punny jokes while his students groan and continue taking notes on Qin Shi Huangdi.

Others may fondly recall   Sloan’s wife, and English teacher Barbara Foss from two floors up, extensively analyzing “To Kill a Mockingbird” with them while they were freshman.

But after next week, Sloan and Foss will be retiring from teaching and leaving Cal High along with this year’s graduating class.

These two prominent, long-standing members of Cal’s faculty will leave this year with more than 50 combined years of teaching experience.

“We wanted to retire before we got tired of teaching,” explained Sloan. “I wanted to retire still wanting to teach one more year.”

Foss said she has been blessed with meeting extremely engaging students throughout her 26 years of teaching.

“I remember every project a student has given me,” said Foss.

The thought of leaving Cal High after 27 years has not yet sunk in for Sloan.

“It probably won’t sink in until the fall comes, when I won’t be teaching,” he said.

Sloan hopes to teach part time at the College of Alameda after retiring, but mainly plans to use this time to relax.

“Everyone asks me what I’m doing after I’m retiring,” said Sloan. “But I’m retiring! I want time to read, reflect, maybe give back to the community.”

But he always wants to remain connected to Cal High, maybe acting as a substitute or proctoring AP Tests.

“Cal’s been my home for so long,” said Sloan.

John Chilcott will replace Sloan as AP U.S. History teacher while Dougherty Valley teacher Gary Lambert will return to Cal to take over Sloan’s advanced world geography classes.

Catie Hawkins and Brian Barr will take Foss’s honors English 9 classes.

“It’ll be hard to follow his footsteps,” Chilcott said of Sloan. “I’m looking forward to continuing his traditions. He has a great sense of humor and high standards.”

Chilcott says that for the past few weeks Sloan has been giving him pointers for next year.

AP Euro teacher Chris Doherty says Sloan has been an important part of the department for decades.

“He’s been my inspiration and mentor, “ said Doherty.

Both Sloan and Foss have gone beyond the classroom to be  a part of clubs on campus.

“Sloan motivated us a lot in Acadec and always has good input,” said senior Andrew Rasiah. “He really brings the club together.”

Foss is also leaving The Protagonist, the school’s annual magazine.

Senior Ridhima Vemula, who has written for the magazine, says Foss has greatly influenced her writing for four years.

“It was in Foss’s class where I first wrote poetry,” she said. “That’s how I grew to love it.”

Despite only having Sloan for a year, Sloan’s freshmen classes will greatly miss him.

Freshman Sara Bilich says that she will miss the Cornell notes that kept her up at night.

“Next year’s freshman will have missed out on a lot of great jokes,” she said. “And what I learned in his class taught me more than three years of middle school did.”

Freshman Joe Lofaso said Sloan has really prepared his freshman for AP Euro.

“Freshmen next year won’t get to experience that,” said Joe.

Personally, Sloan and Foss say Cal is the setting of their courtship in their early years of teaching.

“We had been flirting a lot at the copy machine,” said Foss. “We would quiz each other about sports.”

Sloan said they were friends at first but both thought the other was married.  But at a teacher meeting, they were cracking jokes and laughing when someone had said, “Well, the only two single people in the room are having fun.”

Sloan asked her out that evening.

Foss also debunks the rumor that she and Sloan would purposely schedule their tests on the same day.

“That’s not true at all,” she laughed. “I have no idea what he’s doing downstairs.”

Despite first attending law school, Sloan has no regrets in becoming a teacher.

“My first love was always history,” he said. “Teaching is a gratifying experience.”

Foss also does not regret being a teacher, despite studying at first to be a nurse.

“I love reading, I love teaching,” she said. “I won’t forget anyone that’s ever passed this room.”

Like Foss, Sloan will greatly miss plenty of his students.

“I have enjoyed my students immensely, and it was the highest honor and greatest pleasure to have been their teacher,” said Sloan, who has some simple advince for the class of 2011.

“Find a career you love,” he said. “There is more to life than money. Time is money, friendship is money. There is a big difference between work and inspired labor.”