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Alumni Happenings - September 2007
Grand County High School


Robert Farnsworth,
GCHS Class of 1988

by Jeff Richards

Robert Farnsworth, a member of the Grand County High Class of 1988, is just getting settled in his new job as principal of Helen M. Knight Intermediate School in Moab.

Robert is a fifth-generation Moabite, descended from settlers that arrived in the valley in the mid-1880s. His father, Doug, is from Beaver, Utah, but his mother Vilate (Class of 1956) also graduated from GCHS, as did her father. Vilate grew up in the old Holyoak farmstead home, the historic building just east of Grand County High School that is now occupied by the Youth Garden Project.

Robert is the fifth of seven children, all of whom graduated from GCHS. Three of the Farnsworth siblings (Cindy, Jimmy, and Robert) still live in Moab, as do parents Doug and Vilate.

Following his high school graduation, Robert attended Brigham Young University in Provo for a year before completing a two-year LDS mission in the Sacramento area. After he returned to BYU in 1991, he met his future wife Celeste, the sister of one of his college acquaintances. Robert and Celeste were married in June of 1992. They have four children -- one son and three daughters. Taylor, 14, is a freshman at GCHS, where he plays on the JV football team. Becca, 11, and Lindsay, 9, are both students at HMK (in the 6th and 4th grades, respectively). Youngest child Eliza, 6, is starting 1st grade at Red Rock Elementary. Celeste works as an appointment scheduler for Moab Dental Health Center.

Robert began teaching math at GCMS in August of 1997. He spent the 1998-99 year teaching at the high school, then went back to teaching math at the middle school for eight more years until landing the principal job at HMK earlier this year.

“It’s exciting, and a different challenge altogether,” says Robert of his new position. “When the bell rang that first day, it felt weird not being in a classroom.”

Robert didn’t actually attend school in the HMK building while growing up. Back then, HMK and Red Rock Elementary (then called Southeast Elementary) were both K-5 schools, and Robert attended Southeast. Back then, grades 6-8 attended the middle school, and 9-12 went to the high school, which was located in the current middle school building. “I actually taught math in my (old) English classroom,” Robert noted.

Robert has many fond memories of his middle and high school teachers. “There were so many good ones, I’m afraid to drop any names,” he said before listing a few of his memorable teachers, including math teacher Gene Leonard (who had also taught Robert’s mom back in the 1950s), and Jim Nissen, who taught Robert in band throughout all seven years of middle and high school. Robert also had several teachers whom he later ended up working alongside as colleagues, including wood shop teacher Ed Welling. “It was also strange for me to take driver’s ed from Mr. [Ron] Pierce, only to take over the program from him years later,” Robert noted. Although he taught driver’s ed for 10 years, Robert has now given up that extra position.

Robert also remembers current GCMS teacher Carol Stephenson as being the person who helped him learn how to open his locker in high school. Another current GCMS teacher, Mike Arehart, was president of the school board when Robert attended high school.

Robert participated in various sports and activities during high school, including two years of tennis, three of basketball, and one of golf. He played trumpet and tuba in the school band. “But I really was more interested in academics,” he said, noting that his favorite classes were math and wood shop.

Both Robert and Celeste graduated with bachelor’s degrees from BYU in 1995. After earning his master’s degree in 1998, Robert pursued his school administrator’s certificate for several years, earning it from Utah State University in 2005. Robert noted that he and current GCHS principal Stephen Hren (another teacher newly turned principal) were both in the same USU program at the same time.

Robert spent much of this summer at the HMK building, getting acclimated to his new surroundings, and to the teachers and staff who work at the building. “I have an extremely terrific staff at HMK,” noted Robert. “They’re very professional and very patient.”

Meantime, outgoing HMK principal Margaret Hopkin is now the new superintendent of Grand County Schools, and has been working closely with the district principals, including newcomers Farnsworth and Hren, on a number of district-wide goals and projects, including cross-curriculum mapping, and improved tracking procedures that will more closely follow students as they move through the system.

In his spare time, Robert and his family enjoy spending time in the outdoors, and playing and watching sports.
Robert says that even though the Moab area may be relatively small, its schools have much to offer.

“I really like the many opportunities that our schools have for the kids in our community,” he noted, citing the award-winning GCHS debate team as one of several notable examples.
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