August 30, 2003 - Alameda Times-Star: Micronesia RPCV Ron Nachbar relies on experience, spirituality

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Micronesia: Peace Corps Micronesia : The Peace Corps in Micronesia: August 30, 2003 - Alameda Times-Star: Micronesia RPCV Ron Nachbar relies on experience, spirituality

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Micronesia RPCV Ron Nachbar relies on experience, spirituality

Micronesia RPCV Ron Nachbar relies on experience, spirituality

Pala school leader relies on experience, spirituality

By: KIMBERLY LAMKE - Staff Writer

PALA ---- It might seem like Ron Nachbar, the new principal at Vivian Banks Charter School, is fighting an uphill battle.

With nearly 75 percent of the students at his school considered economically disadvantaged and half the student body learning English as a second language, the thought of raising test scores and ensuring kids don't slip through the cracks might seem daunting. Nachbar is undeterred.

Not one to shy away from challenges, he said teachers and staff at the school are prepared to help students learn English and boost test scores through learning methods and particular types of curriculum that research has shown helps kids read, write and master math concepts, even if English is not their first language.

In between the time he spends researching new curriculum and making sure the school's 28-station computer laboratory has the latest and best learning programs, Nachbar tries to take time to appreciate his surroundings ---- the grounds of Mission San Luis Rey on the Pala Indian reservation.

Nachbar, 45, said many consider him to be a fairly spiritual person and added that walks on the grounds of the school help him think. After serving in Micronesia as a teacher in the Peace Corps for two years, Nachbar spent nine years as a monk in the Self-Realization Monastic Order based in Encinitas.

In 1993, Nachbar left the monastic order and returned to education. He said he missed working with children and also had a great desire to be a father, neither of which was possible while involved in such deep religious service and study.

"I took a break from education when I decided to become a monk," he said. "But, well, I am a people person and I love kids. Being a monk, I couldn't be with kids."

In 1993, Nachbar was hired to teach fifth grade at Bonsall Elementary School. He remained in that position until April, when administrators asked him to take over the leadership position at Vivian Banks on an interim basis. He was appointed to the position permanently June 16.

"I think he's a man of excellent character and integrity," said Jef Schleiger, the superintendent of the Bonsall Union School District. "Ron has a real love for kids and has some teaching abilities that make him extremely qualified for that position. He's made inroads in terms of partnerships with the Pala tribe, which also showed us he was well-suited to the position."

Schleiger added that Nachbar's personal life gives him even a better perspective on how best to teach students trying to learn English.

Nachbar became an instant father to Lonie, 18, his wife Erin's daughter, when the couple married in 1998. The family then decided to adopt six children from Kazakhstan between 2001 and 2002. First, the couple adopted two boys, Isac, 11, and Steven, 12. Then, they returned to the country in 2002 and adopted four sisters, Zoey, 9; Fiona, 11; Lexi, 14; and Julia, 16. None of the children spoke English upon arriving in the United States.

"Just like any other parent should try to do, I read to the kids every night, we work with their homework, we've bought computer programs that focus on language learning," Nachbar said. "But I understand the challenges of working with kids learning English. I live that life."

It's that kind of experience, coupled with his exposure to a wide variety of cultures, that Nachbar says helps him believe he is supposed to be working at Vivian Banks at this point in his life.

Having traveled extensively, he is well aware of the potential conflicts that can arise when people of many different backgrounds are thrown into a situation together. With almost equal populations of Latino and American Indian students, there is the potential for divisiveness on the campus, however Nachbar is confident that harmony can be maintained.

"I think we all have to see through color and see through mannerisms and appreciate people for who they are," Nachbar said. "We're really trying to build self-esteem in these kids and give them (skills) they can take with them for the rest of their lives."

Vivian Banks fifth-grade teacher Ginny Leighton said Nachbar's energy and attitude can't help but make the school even more successful.

"He has an undaunted view of this school and the work it will take to make it a total success," Leighton said. "He wants to fully integrate this school into the community, which is very important."

Contact staff writer Kimberly Lamke at (760) 728-5511 or

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Story Source: Alameda Times-Star

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Micronesia; Primary Education



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