When Robin Hopper was just a wee first-grade student at Cathey’s Valley Elementary School she already knew that she wanted to have a career in education—and make a difference in the lives of the students she would work with.
Fast forward more than three decades. Hopper is now the Superintendent of the Mariposa County Unified School District, moving into the position after spending nine years as an administrator in the Livingston Union School District in Merced County.
“I don’t ever remember not wanting to do this and I definitely remember that I knew it in first grade, that I wanted to be a teacher,” Hopper said. “I had wonderful teachers growing up and I idolized them and used to ‘play school’ when I was at home.”
Hopper is a 1983 Mariposa County High School graduate and native of Cathey’s Valley. After high school she attended Fresno State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. She then attained a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from CSU Stanislaus.
Now that she is in the superintendent’s chair, Hopper said she is moving forward with a clear vision of the future for the district—and is committed to putting the students first in day-to-day operations.
“I have a priority when it comes to running this district, with the children we teach coming first, followed closely by my care for the staff here,” Hopper said.
To that end, Hopper said she wants to see Mariposa students, from pre-kindergarten to the graduating classes of Mariposa County High School, are given the right tools and are ready to face a world and workforce dominated by technology and new ways of thinking.
“We need to prepare our students for this type of a world, so my goal is to help teachers, faculty, teachers and staff, in a way, catch up with their students in technology because they are digital natives, where we are digital immigrants,” Hopper added. “Some of our students are far more technologically saavy than many of us.”
Outside of the bounds of running a school district, Hopper leads an active, spiritual life that includes her 29-year marriage to fellow Mariposa County native Yancey Hopper and daughters Chantal and Celeste, both of whom are serving religious missions.
Hopper’s only son, Lukas, was 20 years old when he was killed in Iraq nearly five years ago during a deployment. A paratrooper, he was attached to the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. He died near the town of Jisr Diyala from injuries he sustained when his vehicle rolled over.
The loss of Lukas is one Hopper said she turned around and used as a positive, meaningful lesson in living life.
“We lost Lukas on Oct. 30, 2009 (and) he was just shy of coming home from the deployment a few days later,” Hopper said. “We were devastated. No parent should lose their child, but I think that life is all about how you deal with what you are given and how you react to what sacrifices have to be made. The way we as a family got through it was to decide, do you stay in bed with the covers over your head, or do you figure out how his sacrifice makes you a stronger person?”
In terms of the spiritual aspect of Hopper’s life, a deep faith in God and a lifelong devotion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helps guide her in day-to-day living.
“I think it is an important part of my life, and going back to Lukas, I don’t know how I would have made it through without my faith,” she added. “We have a very strong congregational ward family, so with them and the knowledge I have an eternal family, there is a larger picture in life. It made me stronger.”
When it comes to addressing the students of the district about the importance of learning, Hopper said she believes each student should make the most of their time in school.
“I was a student here in Mariposa and would say to them that there is nothing more important than getting your education,” she said. “But, you also have to enjoy it, get the most out of it, and to be active and involved.”