Liz Corbett

Liz Corbett

The disturbing events of our most recent Day of Infamy, Jan. 6, hasn’t quite sunk in, and maybe it won’t for a while to come. We are sure living in an energized time, which is a bit ironic for a society that’s supposed to be in “lockdown.” With so much that is supposed to be on hold, our minds are racing. It seems like we’re in for more big energy in the coming 10 days, as we head into the inauguration of our new president. While hoping for as peaceful and civil, and respectful a transition as possible, given the resistance from the White House, and in the streets, that may be wishful thinking. Well, one can dream. 
 
I sat down with a west county treasure on the day after that tumultuous and sadly violent day in Washington DC, and we were both trying to make sense of it. Liz Corbett is a woman who was born and raised here in Sebastopol, and she clearly has her head screwed on well.

Liz is a grounding sort of character. She is the director at CASTLE, a pre-K and kindergarten program for now, where she and her staff get to influence the very youngest and most impressionable of our children.                                            

When and where were you born, Liz? 
Right here in Sebastopol, in 1982. I grew up in the same house my mom still lives in up on Washington, but I now live out on Sexton. I was blessed to grow up here in town. 
 
 
Where was your family from? 
My mom was from Kansas, but grew up right here in Sebastopol, over in one of those big houses on DuFranc. My dad grew up in Ohio and Nebraska, but came to San Francisco when he was dodging the draft. My mom went to Berkeley, but they met at Sonoma State. They were doing the hippie thing. My mom was playing the piano and my dad was doing some dancing thing. Dad is still doing the music thing. 

My mom’s family was mostly German, and French, and maybe Irish. I think it’s my dad’s grandparents who were from Denmark. 

Are they still hippies? 

Yes, mom is still an activist. She thinks the news last night (the chaos in Washington) may have topped the turmoil she and my dad went through in the 60s. 
 
 
I wonder if what we just saw is  like the polar opposite of the rioting in Chicago during the Democratic convention, back in ’68. It was the far left then, and now it’s the far right. Two different extremes, though I don’t think the Yippies were as unhinged, and it was the Chicago police who were the violent ones. 
Anyhow, how are you feeling today, the day after that day of chaos/insurrection/violent protest in DC? 
I have avoided watching the news for a long time, but in talking with my mom, she really emphasized how when they grew up in the 60s, there was a real pursuit of the truth. Ultimately, after some horrific acts, (Viet Nam? The assassination of JFK? The riots in Detroit, and LA?) people were able to face some truth. People can now admit to knowing some things that others have known for a long time. Maybe we’re at that moment now? … Some politicians are now finally coming forward and speaking out about the lies the president has spread, and how he isn’t the qualified leader they once thought. 

It exemplifies the need for solid leadership throughout our entire culture, whether you’re the president or the principal of an elementary school, or an owner of a big company. We need to remember why we chose to lead in the first place, and to create transparency. There is a need for those in charge to be reflective, and authentic, and responsible for their own behavior. That has such an impact on the larger whole.

Let me ask you something entirely different. How worried are you about the changing climate? Does it weigh on you? The droughts, the fires, the heat, the bigger storms … I’m thinking that it’s really weighing on the psyches of younger people. How big a deal is it for you? 
When I start feeling weighed down by it, and I do, I feel grateful that I have faith in something bigger than myself. Otherwise it would be hard to manage and hard to conceive of what’s going on. 
What faith is that?
I believe in God and that there’s a larger plan. That there’s always something to learn from what we’re going through. 
We have a responsibility to take care of our environment and of each other.  To take care of this beautiful place we’ve been given. 

I just moved back here to California from about 10 years in Nevada, right during the recent fires. The ash was still falling. Right when we opened CASTLE, we were challenged with the smoke and with the pandemic at the same time. We didn’t know if we should be inside or outside. 

You have been something of a pillar here at CASTLE. Tell me again what CASTLE stands for. 
Children’s After School Transitional Learning Environment.
How long have you worked at CASTLE? 
I started in 1999, in my senior year of high school. I was 17 and stayed until I was 23. I moved up from student aid to site director. After I left, I taught high school for about 10 years in Nevada, but was drawn back to Sebastopol, and to my roots here at CASTLE. 
Where did you study? 
I went to SRJC, Sonoma State and then got a teaching credential at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. 
Are there three more important years in a kid’s education than the ones you’re overseeing here? 
 I don’t think so. We are born curious creatures, with a desire to know stuff. We get to help kids answer that constant question of theirs, “Why?” Why is it this way or that? And of course, we help them with their emotional growth here as well. Working with at risk kids, we have an especially important role. We get to honor the whole human being. 
How has it been managing the restrictions that the age of COVID has brought here at CASTLE? 
The kids are really adaptable. It’s amazing. They are so good about wearing their masks, and I’m so grateful for how respectful our staff and families have been. Everyone has made  a commitment to limiting contact with people, and being so careful with masking, and washing hands so often. 
The biggest challenge is not having people be as close as we’d like. We’re getting through it, and fortunately, nobody has come up positive yet. 
Where are you going from here? 
I’ve committed to my staff for the long haul. 
This is where I’m at. This is good. I won’t get too far ahead of myself. There are so many unknowns these days. I’m happy to be here now. 
And the vaccine? You ready to get it? 
(Liz hesitates.) I am looking forward to seeing how the vaccine goes. If it was offered to me tomorrow, I’d probably pass for now. Especially given the political climate ,.. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not ready. I’m not on that boat yet. 
Will the school require it some day? 
They might. It’ll be interesting if we go in that direction. I don’t know. 
What’s your favorite hike around here? 
Exercise? I’m not so big on that.  I love Armstrong, but Pinnacle Gulch is probably my favorite. I love taking my dog Josie there. 
I love it there too, but we probably shouldn’t advertise it too much or it won’t be a secret treasure for long. 
Thanks for your work here, Liz. It’s good to have you back. 

Don’t tell too many others about it, but Pinnacle Gulch is out by the golf course in Bodega Bay. There’s a little parking lot on Mockingbird Rd. It’s a regional park, so there’s a fee to park if you don’t have a pass. Then there’s a lovely 20 minute walk down to the ocean. 

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