On football Sundays in the 1960s, Pablo Robertson and his dad made a sport of retreating to their 1961 Chevy Biscayne after church to catch the Los Angeles Rams game on the radio while Robertson’s mom chit-chatted with other parishioners.
This football Sunday, Robertson, now 71, and his son will be a little closer to the action.
An adored retired Upland High School Spanish teacher, Robertson is bound for SoFi Stadium in Inglewood Sunday, Feb. 13, to watch his Rams play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
And he has generations of former students to thank.
Dozens of Upland graduates from the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and 2010s raised more than $10,000 this past week on GoFundMe to send their beloved former teacher to his first Super Bowl.
Attending the final game of any football season, let alone one including his favorite team, “was never really in the realm of possibility because of the expense,” Robertson said Thursday while driving home from Los Angeles with newly-purchased Rams Super Bowl gear beside him. “All my former students, I love every single one of them dearly. I’m humbled by the whole thing.
Born in New York in 1950, Robertson grew up a Giants fan who spent football Sundays glued to his parents’ black-and-white television. Sixty-plus years later, the native New Yorker still recalls watching Johnny Unitas’ Baltimore Colts beat Frank Gifford’s Giants, 23-17, in the 1958 NFL Championship Game.
A move to California around 1960, however, changed the boy’s alliances.
Dick Bass. Roman Gabriel. Robertson fell in love with all things blue and gold.
“From then on,” he said, “I’ve been a 100% loyal Rams fan.”
Robertson, an Upland High alumnus, began teaching Spanish at his alma mater in 1979 and quickly ingrained himself in the campus community.
Sarah Wolfgramm, a 1993 Upland graduate, recalled marveling at all the Rams memorabilia in her former teacher’s classroom the first time she stepped inside. Yet, beyond the banners, flags, pictures and assorted merchandise, Wolfgramm said this week, Robertson poured so much of himself into his students.
Say a kid needed more time to finish schoolwork, Wolfgramm recalled, or wanted to improve his or her test grade — Robertson was more than accommodating.
If you fall down and fail, his philosophy went, you get back up and try again until you accomplish what you want to do.
“He didn’t just teach Spanish,” Wolfgramm said. “He was about teaching life and life lessons and life skills. Spanish was just a perk we learned on the side of the most important lessons.
“I get emotional just thinking about it.”
Across decades, Robertson spent weekday afternoons taking and developing photos of his students at pep rallies and sporting events. The photos he didn’t eventually gift to those kids ultimately landed on a bulletin board in his classroom, a living yearbook of Upland excellence.
“My students taught me so much,” said Robertson, who, in 1994, began doing play-by-play announcing at Upland athletic events, a gig he still has today. “Their sense of humor, their motivation, it was a mutual situation where we both had a positive impact on each other.
“I loved teaching Spanish, I love kids, I love photography, I love announcing,” he continued. “Teaching was an ideal career for me.”
Ten years after retiring, Robertson, a Rams season ticket holder who was unable to secure Super Bowl LVI tickets through two lotteries, intended to watch his team vie for the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy from the comfort of his Upland home.
His former pupils had other plans.
On the eve of Super Bowl week, Laura Salcedo, whom Robertson taught in 2003, launched a GoFundMe page to send him to the game.
Within three days, enough money was raised for tickets.
Beyond the generous donations, Robertson this week said he cherished the comments left by former colleagues and students he of course remembers, but hasn’t spoken to in years.
Air Force pilot Major Kristin ‘Beo’ Wolfe is on Cloud 9 in anticipation of Super Bowl LVI flyover
Alexander: Eric Weddle is a late arrival to the Rams, but right at home
Here’s how to legally bet on the Super Bowl
Can Cincinnati beat LA in Super Bowl economic battle?
1979 Rams look back on Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl
“Hope you make it to the Super Bowl Pablo,” one reads, “and thanks for all you did for my kid and so many others.”
“Pablo has been such a blessing to so many people over the years,” reads another. “My family is so grateful to him. I still use the lessons he taught me every day in my work! He is a wonderful pillar of the Upland community!”
“Usually when somebody has this big an impact on somebody’s life, they get this kind of reward at their funeral or their memorial,” Wolfgramm said. “This is a way to honor and thank him while he’s still here and let him know we appreciated how much time he invested in us during his career.
“Here’s a way for us to give back.”
Robertson wants to leave his house around 8 a.m. Sunday and have a big breakfast before arriving at SoFi Stadium as soon as they open the doors.
In his blue-and-gold Isiah Robertson jersey, he’ll navigate the 70,000-seat football mecca, soaking in the pomp and circumstance at every turn. The photography buff intends to capture all the magic for a montage he’ll post on YouTube later so everyone who pitched in for tickets can see their favorite teacher realize a dream.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Robertson, who will be glued to his seat long before kickoff. “It’s the culmination of being a Rams fan all my life. For them to be in the Super Bowl in LA, in SoFi, this new stadium, and my colleagues and friends sending me, it’s a dream come true like nothing before in my entire life.”