For parts of three decades, Robert Seymour figured out how to make science engaging and relevant in classrooms filled with pubescent preteens.
It was perhaps the former stuntman’s greatest act.
Seymour, a longtime teacher at Lincoln Middle School, confirmed this month that he’ll be retiring from the Santa Monica-Malibu school district at the end of the school year.
But for Seymour, teaching middle school students about everything from genetics and ecology to bacteria and viruses was less of a stunt than a thrill.
“You can still excite them about the wonder of science,” he said.
Raised in Royal Oak, Michigan, Seymour studied biology and psychology at the University of Michigan while developing his skills as an acrobatic cheerleader.
Seymour started dental school at Michigan but steered himself in a different direction after two years, going to Orlando to work as a stuntman at the former Disney MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Seymour eventually relocated to Southern California to pursue acting and began taking classes at UCLA to earn a master’s degree in education. With his science background, he said, teaching “was a perfect fit.”
Seymour first landed in SMMUSD as a student teacher at Santa Monica High School and was hired to work at Lincoln Middle School in 1992.
In 1996, Seymour obtained a second master’s degree in administrative services and later served one year as an assistant principal at Lincoln.
In 2005-06, Seymour achieved National Board Certification in early adolescent science, a highly regarded credential in the teaching profession and perhaps the biggest highlight of his teaching career. The distinction is earned through a rigorous, performance-based assessment. As of last year, SMMUSD had more than 70 teachers with the prestigious certification.
Seymour’s tenure at Lincoln was broken up by a one-year stint in Albuquerque, where he taught middle school science in 2007-08. But, he said, he missed the people and environment in SMMUSD.
“There’s nothing like Santa Monica,” he said. “It’s an awesome district, and Lincoln is an amazing place.”
Seymour said the camaraderie among the staff at Lincoln made his job enjoyable and inspired him to prepare for his classes each day.
He added that he will miss “working tirelessly to make learning come alive for our kiddos and being able to have some fun doing our yearly Faculty Follies.” He served many years as director of the follies, a popular series of stage performances featuring members of Lincoln’s staff.
Seymour said it was a satisfying challenge to figure out how to maximize each student’s potential and come up with ways to make the academic material accessible through a variety of methods.
“Each one is like a puzzle,” he said.
Seymour said his only regret is not embarking on his teaching career sooner. He didn’t start until he was 32.
In retirement, Seymour plans to move back to New Mexico and take up another to-be-determined job.
“I’m sure something will come my way,” he said. “I am not good at just sitting still.”