Monday, January 23, 2017

Teacher Turned Philanthropist Connects With Former School

Former Spring Branch Elementary teacher Sybil Roos (left) points out a detail to Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri on the hallway terrazzo at Spring Branch Elementary. Looking on are Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman and Roos’ niece, Sonia Soto, of Crime Stoppers of Houston.
Sybil Roos’ face lights up as she enters a first-grade classroom at Spring Branch Elementary.

“A reading circle!” Roos said, zeroing in on a patterned rug that’s sectioned off from the rest of the room with bookcases.

The nonagenarian former first-grade teacher at Spring Branch Elementary was on a school tour with SBISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri and SBE Principal Lynn Austin, soaking in the freshness and 21st century look and feel of the campus, rebuilt as part of the 2007 $597.1 million bond program.

Brenda Stardig, District A Houston City Council member, joins former teacher Sybil Roos as she enters a classroom recently at Spring Branch Elementary. Roos taught at SBE from 1975-85, in the building that was demolished after completion of the new building in 2011.
She was accompanied by District A Houston Council Member Brenda Stardig (who attended Spring Branch Elementary), her daughter, Betsy Garlinger, and her niece, Sonia Soto of Crime Stoppers of Houston.

Roos, a noted philanthropist whose support of the arts in Houston is ongoing and well-documented, taught at Spring Branch Elementary from 1975-1985 after moving here from Louisiana with her husband, Henry. Roos taught special education in Shreveport but first grade in Spring Branch.

She fondly recalled her time at Spring Branch Elementary, serving under then-principal Dorothy Greer.

“I just loved my time here,” Roos said, remembering also that when she left in 1985, there was “much going on (in SBISD).” That “much going on” was declining enrollment and the closure of two high schools – Westchester High School and Spring Branch High School.

The rebuilt Spring Branch Elementary opened in 2011, on the same historic site as the original building but just to the north and east. The original Spring Branch Elementary opened in 1939, and before that a one-room school sat on the site.

Nodding to that history, Bay Architects designed history timelines of both Houston and Spring Branch into the terrazzo of the school’s hallways, providing a unique look at key moments in the area’s past.

Roos enjoyed studying and discussing the timelines, but especially came to life upon entering the classroom.

While she recognized the reading circle and other components of the classroom, much was different. An ActiveBoard is mounted where a chalkboard might have been in the past. No rows of desks for students – seating is portable and reconfigurable.

But although today’s students learn in different ways, nothing has changed about the bond between a student and a teacher.

Roos recounted having lunch one day at a local steakhouse when this “big ole man” came over to her table.

“You were my first grade teacher,” the man told Roos.

A few years later while out she was approached by first a female former student, then another, then yet another. To the third girl she said, “I’ve had two other girls approach me today.”

“I know,” the third girl replied. “One of them was my sister.”

Roos beams a little more as she delivers the punchline: “I got both of them.”

by Rusty Graham


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