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GAUCHO PHILANTHROPY IN ACTION

FOR ALL THOSE LIGHTBULB MOMENTS

Veteran educator Patricia Sheldon Smale `70 shares why she supports the Research Mentorship Program

By Marge Perko



Patricia Sheldon Smale `70 with her class.

Learning is a two-way street for retired schoolteacher Patricia Sheldon Smale `70. “I was always pushing to find a lot of ways to connect and engage my students on how to grasp a concept,” she said. “As an educator, I loved that challenge of finding that spark with my students. Their eagerness to learn inspired me to push myself to experience those `lightbulb’ moments.”

After graduating with an art degree from UC Santa Barbara in 1970, Smale worked as a student teacher at Santa Barbara Junior High while earning her teaching credential. She went on to teach elementary and middle school students in Texas and California. Smale was also involved in the Santa Barbara Center for Educational Therapy and set up her own program to help students diagnosed with dyslexia while she lived in Texas.

Patricia Sheldon Smale `70 and Terry Meyer `71

When she first learned about the UCSB Research Mentorship Program (RMP) seven years ago, she was excited to support a program that echoed her beliefs as an educator. “The Research Mentorship Program is one of those ways of engaging students with all these different disciplines,” she said. “It sparks that desire to learn. It allows students to grow and seek the possibilities inside them. More than anything, I was just really intrigued that a program had such a huge impact on students who really didn’t have the means to have college in their realm of thinking. I saw how it changed so many futures.”

Patricia Sheldon Smale `70

If you could rewind and participate in a research program like RMP, what type of project do you think you would have chosen?

“I was very much into biology when I was in high school -- I loved my biology teacher and wanted to be just like her. I was always drawn to the ocean and marine life. I think I would have done something along those lines.” – Patty Smale `70

For Smale, supporting the program went beyond donations. As a teacher, she looked forward to mentoring many of the students who participated in the six-week UCSB summer program. “I had the unique opportunity of working directly with a lot of the students from South High School who participated in RMP,” she said. “I helped a lot of the students through the process of writing their essays for college admissions and scholarships. Several of those same students were also applying for RMP.”

She also worked with students to reach out to fellow UCSB alums about the program. “For one summer, I worked with a whole group of girls who had participated in RMP,” she recalled. “We did an evening presentation to our alumni group in Bakersfield. I helped the girls put together their presentations to this group – we spent a couple of Saturdays together. I also had an opportunity to help a student prepare for an interview for an internship possibility after her RMP experience.”

After she retired from teaching fifth grade at Fruitvale Unified School District in Bakersfield, Smale faced health issues that put a hold on many of her outreach efforts – including her involvement with RMP. “I had breast cancer, so more than a few things came to a halt during the past three years,” she said. “I was just starting to get to know RMP director Dr. Lina Kim. She came to my home while I was recovering. I was so impressed by her. She was the perfect person to take over this program. Her energy and her scope of thinking is just unbelievable.”

She remains in touch with the recent developments at RMP and is delighted by how much the program has grown. “I didn’t realize it had such a wide, international reach,” she said. “When I first got involved, a lot of the research focus was in math and science. It has expanded to so much more, with broader scopes in the disciplines they pulled in for mentoring these kids. It really opens up an exciting realm of possibility for education.”

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