By Davida Siwisa James
APPLE VALLEY REVIEW
As a child, Rob Turner was bedridden for six months.
But with illness came the opportunity to do a lot of reading that turned into a love of the written word. And the teacher who visited his home twice a week nurtured his inquisitive mind.
Those formative experiences propelled Turner to be the first in his family to attend college. Indeed, he earned a master’s degree. His love of learning carried him from school custodian to teacher, principal and a member of both the Apple Valley Town Council and school board.
In December, after 13 years on the Apple Valley Unified School District board of trustees, Turner ended his term — and brought a close to his 55-year career in education.
With a master’s degree from Cal State Northridge, Turner’s career moved steadily from teacher to assistant principal. Turner taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District with some dramatic encounters in the urban schools.
A native Californian, he moved from the Bay area to the High Desert to take advantage of the promotion to principal.
“I moved here in 1976 to become principal of Apple Valley Junior High,” said Turner. The job opportunity, along with his love of the desert, led to 36 years in Apple Valley serving almost every aspect of the community.
Turner credits the remarkable skills and dedication of the teachers on his staff at Apple Valley Middle School for any successes he had as principal through 1995.
In a time when many schools have been forced to make cuts to non-academic programs, Turner feels it an accomplishment that the Apple Valley schools have been able to maintain their arts and sports programs.
Obviously, administrators don’t often get to interact with students as do the teachers, except on a disciplinary level quite often. But Turner clearly recalled one student who attended Apple Valley Middle School and went on to become an actor — Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr.
“It’s not that I knew him personally,” said Turner. “But I knew of him and that he was considered a nice kid. He was a performer even then.”
During his tenure on the school board, the middle schools in Apple Valley scored higher on tests than any other middle school in the High Desert. That’s no small achievement.
“I was there for the kids,” he says of his years on the school board.
The father of three embraces how important education is to his family. The first to graduate college, he speaks as proudly of the Ph.D. that his daughter earned as the one his stepson, Max, achieved. His principles are grounded in being a father and husband who is committed to his community and church.
His rich experiences include serving as a Marine. Turner has been a Rotarian for over 25 years, served on the Town Council, as mayor and was an officer on the Chamber of Commerce.
He is very proud to have been part of the team that started the foundation for St. Mary’s Hospital.
Among the many activities that keep him busy, he is currently president of the Victor Valley Community Services Council, which helps seniors, and the Family Assistance Program that runs a shelter for battered women.