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Bart Romero: Willing to do the work
Monday, June 11, 2012
Bart Romero has retired
Over 2,000 students can point to their year with Bart as their agriculture teacher as one where they “learned something that helped me.”
Romero’s Maricopa High School (MHS) teaching position has spanned the 20 years during which Maricopa evolved from a small rural agricultural community to a predominantly suburban, bedroom community.
Beginning as the agriculture instructor in 1987, he oversaw raising steers and growing crops. Students were required to be hands-on and pitched in to produce pit barbecues, tend the plants, and help with the cattle.
Over the years, as Maricopa changed, so did his position -- to his most recent assignment as the welding instructor. Welding, intuitively, would not seem to be a logical part of being an agriculture teacher.
Romero says, “But it is. Farmers need to fix their equipment and that requires welding.”
His response is typical of his action-oriented approach to work. Indeed, his motto could well be, “Whatever it takes.”
Until 2009, when agriculture was still part of the curriculum, Romero also led the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter at MHS. They sponsored community barbeque dinners, where they smoked the meats themselves in pits and prepared the entire meal. The proceeds of the dinners paid for FFA members to attend the national conventions.
In between, Romero has been an important part of many students’ lives as they learned a trade and responsibility.
Romero grew up in a large farming family in Belize, a “paradise on earth.” As the oldest of 13 children, Bart had a strong work ethic instilled in him by his father. In addition to working on the family farm, he also earned a teacher’s diploma and, subsequently, taught elementary school for 13 years.
Although English is the national language of Belize, a large part of the population speaks Spanish. So, in 1978, he was recruited to tutor a Peace Corps Volunteer in Spanish. The Peace Corps volunteer, Barbara, was setting up dental school programs in Belize. After dating for a couple of years, Bart and Barbara married and decided to return to the United States so she could care for her parents.
Romero took advantage of grants to earn a bachelor degree in Agriculture from the University of Arizona, so he could become credentialed for teaching in Arizona. He also tutored students in Spanish at Pima College. When he graduated, he heard about a position in the “little community of Maricopa.” He was offered a teaching position when Maricopa’s schools housed only a total of 250 students, grades K-12.
During his early years, he taught animal science, raising steers from 700-800 pounds to 1,400 pounds. The school kept some of the profit when the animals were sold.
Back to Belize
From 1992 until 1997, Bart and Barbara headed back to Belize, where they adopted three children. Bart landed a position as manager at a research station and tourist facility for a program that worked to conserve the rainforest.
Although he loved the job, it required him to be out in the rainforest for weeks at a time, 60 miles from home. Barbara decided that their children, who have disabilities, would “do better” if they moved back to the United States. Bart agreed, “Let’s go. It’s best for the family.”
Back in the USA
When they returned to Arizona in July 1997, Bart called the Maricopa School District and was surprised to have (now retired MUSD School Superintendent) Alma Farrell answer the phone. She wanted him to return to his former position, but it was occupied. Fate stepped in when the teacher quit the following week. Bart took the job. He was happy when his tenure was reinstated.
Romero continued as agriculture instructor, and ultimately welding teacher, until this May. Before the recent campus renovation, Romero’s classes tended greenhouses on the MHS campus and continued the pit barbeque fundraising dinners.
Never one to shirk hard work, Romero also served as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor for Central Arizona College (CAC) from 2003 to 2007.
When his grandson was born, he stopped teaching for CAC because “I keep my word.” Family is first for Bart.
Bart had his “best year ever” this year at MHS. His students learned to use acetylene torches and do plasma cutting. They produced useful items for the school, like crankshaft holders for the auto program. Some students applied their skills and even made metal sculptures. But, after 20years of teaching, he is hanging up his torch and heading back to Belize.
Barbara is due to retire this August. They will bring their son with them to Belize after they sell their Maricopa home.
In retirement, Bart will not be retiring. They already own some land and plan to develop a bed and breakfast to appeal to tourists. Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world, is a tropical paradise for water sports, and has a historical niche with Mayan ruins. Tourism is booming.
Bart smiles when he talks about the new venture in Belize. He enjoys the more laid-back lifestyle there and looks forward to jogging, dancing with his wife, and listening to music. He will miss his grandson, who spends a lot of time with him, but expects him to visit in summer. Nine of Bart’s siblings and his mother are still alive and he likes the idea of being in Belize, even with running the B ’n B, which requires 24-hour service.
He still remembers his father’s philosophy, “If you want to succeed, you gotta work hard. Whatever you like, whatever it takes.”
Bartolome Romero is obviously not afraid of hard work. He will welcome their future B ’n B visitors in his usual gracious, laid back style, making it all seem easy.
Doesn’t Belize sound like a great place for a vacation?
Shelley Gillespie / CopaNews.com
Bart Romero, now retired after 20 years of teaching at Maricopa High School, demonstrates use of the acetylene torch for welding class.