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Our Town: Spirit of adventure guided teacher from Cuba to Tahoe

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune After teaching ESL and Spanish classes at South Tahoe High School for 20 years, Tere Tibbetts is involved in community outreach and is a part-time bilingual counselor at Lake Tahoe Community College.
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It’s a long way from Havana, Cuba, to South Lake Tahoe, but buoyed by her adventurous spirit and love of learning, Teresita “Tere” Tibbetts made the journey.

She intended to spend one year as a ski bum in the Sierra town when she arrived in 1970, but after becoming a ski patroller at Heavenly Mountain Resort and later a teacher with Lake Tahoe Unified School District, she never left.

Born in Havana almost 65 years ago, Tibbetts attended a private high school in Philadelphia from ages 13 to 17 – and it was tough. Conventional thinking was that Latin girls never got past their first year, but Tibbetts was determined she wouldn’t be held back and graduated in June 1960.



After graduation, she returned to Cuba and saw the biggest change. By then, she was Americanized and no longer fit in with the culture. She always had an independent spirit, wanted to continue her education and refused to just be married off and “kept,” she said. A month later, she and her brother moved to the United States.

Although Castro had taken over Cuba, there still were diplomatic relations between the two countries. Since Tibbetts and her brother already had visas and purchased round-trip tickets, they had no trouble leaving. Her parents left Cuba in November 1960 and joined them in the United States.



Tibbetts graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., with a degree in biology and in 1965 received a teaching credential from the University of Maryland. She taught at an American school in Barcelona, Spain, where she learned to ski, as well as at high and middle schools in the eastern United States. After completing her five-year residency requirement, she became a U.S. citizen in 1967.

She was a member of the ski patrol at Heavenly for six years. It was during that time she met her husband, Malcolm Tibbetts, who also was a ski patroller and later became a vice president at Heavenly.

They married in 1976 and have two children – Andrew, 30, and Cristina, 27. Tere stayed at home with her children until 1986, when she began teaching part time at Bijou Elementary and South Tahoe High School. After receiving her California credential, she taught Spanish and ESL classes as well as classes in many subjects for non-English speakers for 20 years at South Tahoe High School.

She retired from full-time teaching in 2005 and now spends two to three days a week at Lake Tahoe Community College as a bilingual counselor. She also does outreach with the adult community. She attends events in the community trying to get Latinos and people from other cultures to take classes at LTCC to help them become part of the community.

In her free time, Tere enjoys downhill skiing, reading, traveling and knitting. She also plays lousy golf but enjoys it. She is a board member at the Family Resource Center, where she volunteers for anything related to her outreach activities. Her answers to the Tribune’s questions are below:

“I like to eat well. I like food that has seasoning and spices in it. I like good, fresh food, and I don’t eat junk.”

“There are quite a few issues that need looking at. The problem of immigration needs to be solved. The economy is in chaos. Health is such an important issue, and prescriptions are out of control. I don’t have solutions, but I’m open to listen to whatever changes need to be made.”

“I just started reading ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ by Ken Follett. I’ve read every book he has written, and this one is very different. It takes place during the 12th century in England. I love to know as much as possible about the Middle Ages, because some of the problems from those days are still with us today. I don’t love the Middle Ages, and I’m glad that I didn’t live then.”

“I like music that makes me move. I like the Latin beat, and I love to dance. I’ve been involved with Jazzercise for more than 25 years.”

“I’ve been involved in so many professions. At one point, I wanted to be a doctor. I’m good in an emergency situation, and I took care of some very gruesome accidents while I was ski patrolling.”

“I’d say my hubby, Malcolm. He has successfully started a new career with his wood-turning business, and he does beautiful work. He is brilliant, and his mind never stops working. He is always constructing and designing something in his head.”

“I think it would be Abraham Lincoln. The Civil War was such a major endeavor. He attempted to change the thinking of the people, and he did it. He wouldn’t stand for injustice.”

“I’d marry Malcolm again. He has written a book on the art of segmented wood turning, and he is famous.”

“I would love to be able to prevent the Holocaust. Hitler was a cancer, and I would love to have a chance to destroy him before he did what he did. I’m a cancer survivor, and I would love to see cancer eradicated.”

“I would like to take my iPhone with me. I could call people and might be able to get rescued sooner.”


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