Retired A.G. educator shakes up ‘cushy little life’

Mike Sears
courtesy photo
SoCo Beat 3-24
Mike Sears courtesy photo SoCo Beat 3-24

Mike Sears, Lucia Mar schools superintendent from 2003-04, has joined in the Peace Corps at age 57. He retired from San Luis Obispo County’s largest school district in June 2007, after serving for 29 years as teacher, as principal of Arroyo Grande High School, as superintendent and back again to the classroom.

After moving to Bass Lake near Yosemite at retirement, traveling, volunteering and doing various projects, Sears decided he needed to challenge his “cushy little life” and do some hard things that would “push me to be a better person.” He checked into Americorps, but the Peace Corps seemed like the perfect choice.

He headed to Indonesia on March 15, an unexpected change in country because of the Peace Corps having recently engineered a new contract there. He was supposed to go to an Eastern European country. Sears will teach English to Indonesian high schoolers, apropos of his having been an English and social studies teacher for many years.

But first he will go through three months of training and live with a host family in Balang on the Indonesian island of Java. He will be learning the language of Bahasa, Indonesia, a Malaysian language. Then he will be sent with three other teachers to a nearby town to begin teaching and will likely live with a family there, too.

Sears noted that all the other volunteers he’ll be serving with are recent college graduates, but he has always enjoyed working with young people and relishes being the “elder” in the group.

Sears, who was born and raised in Arroyo Grande, then was fortunate to work there for 29 years, adjusted to the cold winters in Bass Lake with little problem. Now in Indonesia, he will be living just below the Equator with a tropical climate but he is not concerned about the change.

Sears has worked with teenagers his entire adult life. After being superintendent, he wanted to return to the classroom. From 2004-07 he taught in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, helping high schoolers who might need help preparing and getting into college. The program’s purpose is to help rural, low income, minority and other students without a college tradition in their families.

In addition, he was the activities director and worked on the school yearbook.

After the second year of his retirement, Sears wondered what to do with the rest of his life. He heard the call of President Barack Obama to volunteer. He volunteered at the Yosemite Visitors’ Bureau but began to want to do something more.

It took about 11 months from completing his application to actually starting the Peace Corps program. Sears will be spending the first five days in Djakarta. A large part of the population — 80 percent — is Muslim. He is excited about learning about the Muslim culture and the volunteerism part as well.

This “gives me an opportunity to help others and give of myself,” he said.

Sears is not worried about any physical challenges that may come up. A nice part of the program is that he will get 48 days of vacation and all room and board is paid. The Peace Corps puts aside about $200 a month for the returnee to have when service is done.

Sears will be returning in July 2012.

The South County Beat appears every other week. Anyone with story ideas involving interesting people in the South County can reach Gayle Cuddy at 489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.