Whitney Fisher '90
Santa Catalina High School '94
Princeton '99 - Bachelor of Arts, American History
Winemaker, Fisher Vineyards
Rob Fisher '92
Phillips Academy Andover '96
Duke '00 - Bachelor of Science, Economics
General Manager, Fisher Vineyards
Cameron Fisher '96
Santa Catalina High School '00
Colby (ME) ’04 - Bachelor of Arts, English
Sales and Marketing, Fisher Vineyards
Whitney, Rob, and Cameron Fisher don’t recall undue attention because they were the children of one of our founders. However, Whitney and Rob began at SCDS the year it opened (Cameron is four years younger), and Rob and Cameron are lifers, having attended SCDS for grades K-8.
The three alumni are the children of Juelle Fisher, who founded SCDS in 1983 with her friends and fellow mothers Tricia Coxhead and Ellen Wear and Founding Headmaster Philip Nix. There was at least one Fisher student at SCDS during our first thirteen years, and they were witnesses and participants in the school’s early growth from fifty-three students to one hundred and fifty.
“I remember the playground, the swings, and how cool it was to be old enough to go to classes upstairs,” says Cameron. To which Whitney and Rob say, “What playground? And, the entire school was on the second floor when we started!” SCDS was on the second floor of a wing of the Luther Burbank Center and gradually occupied additional space as the school population grew.
“My class was large, thirty-six students, and we had two sections,” says Cameron. “Not mine,” says Rob. “We had eighteen.” Whitney (with ten in her class) remembers students in multiple grades and with varying capabilities in a math class with one teacher. “We advanced at our own pace. When we finished a workbook, we moved on to the next in the series,” she says.
They also agree on many things.
“Art,” says Cameron, “was important. Art teacher Greer Upton taught a Copy the Masters unit, and we also made masks from Plaster of Paris.” (While they have evolved since, those projects will sound familiar to our current students.)
Whitney remembers memorization practice. “It was big, especially in Mr. Nix’s French class. We had to memorize and recite everything!” she said. “It was good for us, though. When I was a junior in college, I had to present a project several times. It was easy for me, but I was surprised how nervous my classmates were.”
“I remember the plays and public-speaking training,” says Rob. “Everyone participated in the plays and the holiday programs. The younger students played music and sang, and the older kids acted.” Weekly assemblies, led by students, were also an early practice—held on the stairway leading to the second floor. “Each class would occupy their own step,” says Whitney.
“I loved science and the Blank Sheet Tests in science teacher Ms. Gabler’s (now Stettler) class,” says Whitney. “We would write all the facts we had learned in science on a blank sheet of paper, and get points for the correct ones,” Rob adds. “You could write anything you wanted on the sheet, not just science facts (although those were the only facts to earn points), so if someone had a blank sheet of paper, it was pretty obvious they weren’t paying any attention!”
Cameron gives credit to her English teacher, Susan Hirsch. “She really made us produce!” Fellow alumni may also empathize with another memory of Cameron’s, “I think I worked on my eighth grade graduation speech all year!”
The Fishers also remember that the high value placed on education by Juelle and her husband, Fred, was shared by the many other parents involved in SCDS’s early years. “We knew how much our parents valued education. It was exhibited through my mother’s participation in the school, but we also always had the feeling other parents were equally engaged and involved,” says Rob.
“I sensed the campus wasn’t like other schools, though. Everyone—the teachers, the parents, Mr. Nix, were stretching to make everything work. Teachers were particularly motivated because they were new to the job and free to design their own curriculum,” says Rob. “Classrooms didn’t have a lot of equipment, so teachers were creative. I remember Ms. Gabler walking my class out to the storm drain in the field behind the school for a practical lesson in ecosystems.”
“My mom used to say, ‘I’m going to give you something that no one can take from you, an education,’” says Whitney.
Our earliest students shared a certain maturity as they learned to maneuver in a complex housed in rented space that was also home to a public theater and art museum. “SCDS was growing every year, so there would be new classrooms and offices to find. It was exciting when school began each year to find out what and who were new,” says Rob.
Cameron remembers the thrill from venturing near the public spaces. “We’d visit the vending machines, which we called ‘vendos.’ They were near the outer limits of the classrooms. PE was in the parking lot, too,” she says, noting that it didn’t prevent games of kickball, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee from being as enthusiastic as the ones played now in our gym or on French Field.
After their SCDS graduations, Whitney, Rob, and Cameron attended boarding schools and East Coast colleges. The three have returned to Sonoma County where they manage the family’s business, Fisher Vineyards. They also return to SCDS on various occasions and have developed an adult appreciation for the importance their parents attached to supporting SCDS.
In 2006, Rob, became SCDS’s first alumni trustee, sharing his alumni perspective with his trustee colleagues. Whitney, who has a daughter, sees new meaning in what made her SCDS education special. “The opportunity for self-directed learning made the difference in my SCDS education. We could choose what we were interested in learning. In science, we could choose our science project and how we presented them.” Cameron majored in English in college and attributes that decision to her memorable experience in Susan Hirsch’s class.
Valuable information, indeed, about their elementary school from three children who were here from the very beginning!