Remembering Dr. Paul Wilt: A Life Faithfully Lived

Dr. Paul Wilt, founding father of Santa Barbara Christian School, a predecessor to today’s Providence School, passed into glory on June 23 at the age of 93. He is survived by his wife, Doris, and their four children: Tom, Marilyn, Janet, and Daniel, who were among the first generation of Santa Barbara Christian School students.

Dr. Paul Wilt in 1962. (Photo credit: Westmont College Archive)

When Westmont College hired Dr. Wilt as a history professor in 1958, he began the search for a Christian school for his then three children. Finding no viable options, he drew on past experiences founding three Christian day schools in Pennsylvania to launch the effort to establish a Christian elementary school in Santa Barbara.

To gauge interest, Wilt wrote letters to 50-60 local pastors whose names he found in the Yellow Pages. He then formed a committee of like-minded parents and pastors and together they founded Santa Barbara Christian School in 1959.

The school opened for grades 1-6 at Alamar Four-Square Church (served by one of the pastors) in September 1960 with 60 students.

“The whole thing was his idea,” according to Mrs. Tirzah Riley, longtime Santa Barbara Christian School administrator and unofficial school historian. “He was horrified there was no real Christian school here and he needed one for his children.”

“He was modest and shy and not a born leader. But he just did what needed to be done for the sake of his children’s education. He set the philosophy and vision that lives on today.” 

Riley, who met Dr. Wilt about 25 years after the school was founded, recalls him as “an amazing, humble servant. He was very precious with his children and wife. He lived the love of Christ.” 

At the 2017 Providence commencement ceremony in 2017, Dr. Scott Lisea, head of school, recognized Paul and Doris Wilt, who were in attendance, and welcomed them to participate in the newly formed Board Emeriti recognition program. “Dr. Wilt gathered the first board of directors to begin Christian education in Santa Barbara,” Lisea said in expressing the school’s gratitude for Wilt’s vision and faithful service, “and he continued on as the board chairman for many years. That is the kind of person Paul is. His faith led him to glorify God for the good of his neighbors.”

Dr. Wilt and his fellow board members weathered many storms by God’s grace and provision as the school added classes and faculty and moved from one campus to another while developing a support base.

Wilt’s confidence in God’s providence and the vital necessity of the school’s mission never wavered.  “It was something the Lord wanted us to do and he has blessed it, “ Wilt said matter-of-factly in a 2018 video interview.

“Many children and their parents have appreciated the education which they have received at Santa Barbara Christian School. …Your children are very important to you and therefore their proper education is very significant and you put a lot of emphasis on that.” 

Dr. Paul Wilt cuts the ribbon on the new modular building installation on the old Modoc campus in September 2003. (Photo credit: Providence School Archive)

Dr. Wilt’s vision and passion for Christian education in Santa Barbara extended many years beyond his own family’s need for the school. In the same interview, he reflects “Now that the school is much larger… it is reaching out to more people with the promise of an education which is Christ-centered and which takes into account the accomplishments, if you will, of the Christian faith to people around the world.”

The founder of Santa Barbara Christian School remained a lifelong friend and supporter of what is now Providence School (after mergers with Providence Hall and El Montecito School).

Dr. Paul Wilt’s handprint is strongly imprinted on the school we enjoy today.

Dr. Paul Wilt speaks about the founding of Santa Barbara Christian School in a 2018 interview. (Video credit: Missionary Films)
Dr. Paul Wilt reflects on the growth and reach of Santa Barbara Christian School and Providence School over six decades. (Video credit: Missionary Films)

Jamie DeVries Joins Upper School Faculty

Jamie DeVries has accepted the invitation to join the Providence faculty, beginning in the 2022–2023 academic year. A veteran teacher, Mr. DeVries has devoted the past 23 years of his professional life to helping students succeed, in and beyond the classroom. He is the founder and director of the Entrepreneurship Academy at San Marcos High School, as well as the nonprofit organization Kids Helping Kids, which has raised over $4.5 million for disadvantaged children, locally and globally.

Mr. DeVries has taught United States history and economics courses at all levels, including Advanced Placement (AP) classes, first at Santa Ynez High School and primarily at San Marcos High School. He has also taught dual-enrollment business courses in entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, and more through Santa Barbara City College. At Providence, he will teach economics, government, and humanities courses in the Upper School. He will collaborate with current teacher Bruce Rottman, who announced he is retiring at the end of the current school year, to prepare for his new teaching assignment.

With devotion to helping students succeed in academics and in life, Mr. DeVries has created many opportunities to influence students beyond the classroom, including founding an international education tour company and leading summer tours throughout Europe, organizing and leading high school service-learning trips to Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, and India, and creating a local youth mentorship program.  

A graduate of Westmont College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business, Mr. DeVries holds a single-subject teaching credential through Chapman University. Additionally, he is a certified life coach, having trained in the Stanford University Design Your Life program. He is the recipient of many local, state, and national awards, including Santa Barbara County’s Superintendent Bill Cirone “Heart of Education Award” (2019), Santa Barbara County “Distinguished Educator of the Year” (2011), and was named one of Westmont College’s “80 Notable Alumni” (celebrating Westmont’s 80th anniversary). 

Jamie DeVries and his wife, Tiffany, already are integral members of the Providence community, with their two children enrolled in the Preschool and Lower School. Through his children’s experience at Providence, Jamie has become passionate about Christian education. “When a teacher visits our backyard to welcome our child to school and to pray with her, there are no words to describe that profound experience,” he relates. 

“From my perspective, faith and learning are inseparable and I truly believe we are called to be doers of the word. There are countless opportunities to incorporate faith into daily curriculum; for me it comes down to living a life worthy of God’s calling by searching after truth and appreciating the liberties that we have been given.”

Mr. Rottman and Mr. DeVries are professional acquaintances, having met at an economics teachers conference in Utah in 2017. There, they discovered a mutual passion for the freedom philosophy. “Students under my direction have always come to appreciate the gifts of freedom that our founders have passed down, as well as the veterans who have protected these gifts,” says Mr. DeVries, “and this underscores much of my worldview and how I deliver curriculum. The opportunity to teach the philosophical principles of liberty and free markets from a foundation of faith and in a community that strives to pursue Christ together is a welcome responsibility and a personal blessing.”

Bruce Rottman Announces His Retirement

Bruce Rottman

Bruce Rottman, Upper School humanities, economics, and government teacher, plans to retire from full-time classroom teaching at the end of the current school year. Mr. Rottman joined the Providence Hall faculty in 2009 and has played a pivotal role in Providence School’s development and flourishing.

Bruce Rottman
Bruce Rottman

A fulltime high school teacher since 1980, Mr. Rottman has enjoyed 42 consecutive years fulfilling his lifelong passion to teach. His career has taken the Muskegon, Michigan native to both Christian and independent schools in Florida (Naples Christian Academy), Northern California (Contra Costa Christian School), Washington (Lynden Christian School), Wisconsin (Brookfield Academy) and finally, southern California (Providence School). 

“I am grateful God has granted me all these years and incredible opportunities to shape the minds and hearts of the next generation,” says Mr. Rottman. “I have had the privilege to not only guide young minds in how to think, but I’ve also been able to guide them as they discern what to think about the topics I believe are noble, virtuous, and important to advancing God’s Kingdom.” 

A dynamic classroom teacher

When Mr. Rottman joined Providence Hall, the high school, founded in 2007, was still in its start-up phase. “Under God’s providence and through the persistent effort of our board members, administrators, faculty, and supporters, we have created a wonderful school that provides stellar opportunities for students to engage with great ideas, grow spiritually, and develop the skills and habits that will serve them well in college and throughout their lives,” he reflected.  

Rod Meadth, Upper School principal, says he expects Mr. Rottman’s retirement will bring mixed emotions from the faculty and student body. “Bruce has been a pillar of our teaching community over the years, with many students attesting to his good influence in their lives. Students coming up may be disappointed to learn he is retiring, but we can’t expect him to teach forever! After 42 years of devotion to his craft and hundreds of students having passed through his classroom, he has earned a rest. But I know that the lives he has shaped will continue to pass on that good influence in their own families, businesses, and communities. Bruce is passionate about building the Kingdom of God with excellence and understanding, and he can be proud of having done just that. This is his legacy.”

Mr. Rottman looks forward to whatever the future holds outside the classroom, which is likely to be a combination of consulting, part-time teaching, writing, creating art, renovating an older home, and spending time with his family. To ease into retirement, he has accepted a one-year position to launch a free market institute and teach a dual-credit economics class at Brookfield Academy, in conjunction with Concordia University Wisconsin.

“I will never retire from sharing my passion for liberty and sound economics and how those ideals reduce poverty and contribute to human flourishing,” Mr. Rottman says. “Without a doubt, I remain committed to the Providence mission and to seeing the school I’ve been privileged to help build succeed at every level. I am confident God has provided an excellent new faculty member in Jamie DeVries, who will bring his own mix of talents and skills to benefit our students.”

A Patriots fan to the core.

Looking to Jesus: The Perfect Model for Spiritual Disciplines

A Recess & Rhetoric Blog Post by Evan Covell, Athletic Director

An important reminder when thinking about spiritual disciplines

There are some things you need to know about me in order for this blog post to make sense. I am an athlete at heart. I am competitive; I really enjoy winning. Because of those two qualities, I tend to be hard on myself. I desire to be good at everything I do and when I start to make mistakes, I beat myself up for them. I truly value being disciplined, particularly with my physical training and my work.

Often when I think about spiritual disciplines in my  life, I spiral out of control. I start to think about how I’m not reading the Bible enough, praying enough, taking Sabbath rest consistently enough. I begin to beat myself up, thinking lowly of myself for not being good enough for God. 

Then I take a pause … and I remind myself of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will never be enough, I will never live up to God’s glorious standard. And just knowing that truth brings wonderful freedom. Because I know the rest of the story; that because I am human, a broken, messy human, Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life I can not live, died the death that I deserve. And the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus defeated death, gifted me the Holy Spirit, and joined the Father in a perfect union that he freely offers me.

This Gospel truth reminds me that cultivating spiritual disciplines has no impact on my eternal salvation. Scripture is clear, we were dead in our sins and God rescued us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

When I think about this truth, an image often comes to mind. I picture myself struggling to keep my head above water when Jesus reaches a hand out to grab me and I take hold of his hand. He saves me, right? No. I don’t think this image conveys the actual truth. A truer image would be me, already dead, floating lifeless in the water. Jesus gets in, drags me out, resuscitates me, and miraculously brings me back to life. You see, in this image, I have absolutely nothing to do with my salvation. That’s the way it truly is. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…But  God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:1 and 2:4-5).

I want to offer this truth to you, too. As we look at the life of Jesus and the way he modeled spiritual disciplines, remember that even though we seek to live like Christ our salvation is not dependent on our success. Our salvation is securely safe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Now, let’s look at three disciplines Jesus modeled for us: prayer, rest, and community. 


Providence faculty members Taylor Hurt (left) and Evan Covell (right) beginning a new school year with prayer.

In fall of 2019, I was feeling disconnected and discouraged in my relationship with God. I decided to retreat for a half day to a place that is special to me: a little turnout on Mountain Drive. I parked my car, set out a blanket, sat down, and opened the Bible. I decided to read through Luke’s gospel and take some notes. As I was reading, I started to make note of how frequently Jesus was recorded doing just what I was doing that day. I counted at least 10 instances recorded in the Book of Luke where Jesus retreated to solitude to pray to God. 

Clearly, this was an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle for Jesus; time spent alone in prayer, cultivating his relationship with God the Father. Jesus set his followers a goal to bear fruit. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). The way that we are guaranteed to bear fruit is to abide in Jesus. Abiding means staying connected with him. We can do this through consistent prayer and conversation with God. 

This conversation with God can extend beyond carving out time in our weeks to find solitude and to practice focused prayer. I teach my athletes something I call “breath prayers.” Essentially, they are prayers you can say in one breath: “Lord, help me” or “thank you, God” or “here I am, Lord.” These small prayers can recenter us and remind us of God’s active grace in our lives. Try it out, if you’d like.


Providence Lower School students take time to reflect and write in their journals on a spiritual retreat.

Sabbath rest is a glorious gift from the Creator of the world. God knew from the beginning that we humans would need to rest in order to thrive. I do not consistently keep Sabbath, but I wish I did. And when I do get in a good groove with taking a day of rest each week I recognize a difference in my mood, energy, productivity, and kindness to those around me. Initially, the idea of taking an entire day off from work seems impossible, especially to high school student-athletes. There’s homework to do, tests to study for, and seemingly not enough time in the week to get it all done. I often surprise students with a suggested 24-hour period in which they could Sabbath: Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown. By being efficient with weekend homework on Saturday morning or midday, students can set themselves up for success and simply put in some finishing touches on Sunday night. Try out this schedule to see if it blesses you.

I often get too fixated on Sabbath rules, which really are rules that I set for myself. So I remind myself to simplify Sabbath-keeping by focusing on activities that are life-giving, recentering my focus on God, and refraining from activities that I consider “work”. For me, “work” includes laundry, cleaning, emails, writing practice plans, etc. I don’t consider exercise to be “work,” because, for me, exercise is life-giving. I recommend taking some time to create a list of life-giving activities and “work” activities to help you structure a Sabbath day.


Coach Covell enjoying community with a team of Providence Upper School students as they serve the younger students with organized carnival games.

Finally, I want to touch on Jesus’s knack for creating and investing in a community. I think this is a key spiritual discipline for cultivating a healthy lifestyle. Jesus surrounded himself with people, unless he took a deliberate break for solitude. He called his disciples to follow him closely and to live life together with him. He consistently shared meals with others and generously served and accepted being served by others. Demonstrating love and compassion for friends was a staple characteristic of these communities. I am forever astounded by Jesus’s kindness and love for others. I strive to follow Jesus by showing kindness and love to others, and there is no more important place to do this than within my consistent community.

My wife and I have fervently sought community throughout our four years of marriage. We know that it is crucial to our well-being that we have friends to hold us accountable, who check in on us, who we can share our lives with, from joking around to praying for each other. I highly recommend finding a group of friends who share similar values and meeting with them frequently. Your time together doesn’t need to be structured or formal. But it’s best to be as consistent as possible. We gather with our community once a week. For you, it might be once a month or twice a week. Whatever is best for you, I pray that you will find community and experience the love of Christ.

As broken, messy humans, practicing—not necessarily mastering—the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, rest, Sabbath-keeping, solitude, and community, among others, lead to a healthy, Christlike life that blesses us as individuals and the people around us.

Evan Covell
Evan Covell

Before being named Providence School’s athletic director in 2021, Coach Evan Covell was already deeply involved in the Providence community, having trained the track and field and cross-country teams for the previous four years. He continues to coach those teams while directing all Providence athletics programs. Coach Covell is wholeheartedly committed to the power of athletics to build character and instill strong Christian values in both athletes and coaches.

Taking a Moment: The Key to Compassion

A Recess & Rhetoric Blog Post by April Torres, Sixth Grade Teacher

Take a moment to remember

Who God is and who I am

There You go lifting my load again . . . .

His yoke is easy and His burden is so light

I’ve been listening to these words from a song, “Take a Moment,” by United Pursuit over and over again the past few weeks and have been struck with the idea that the heart of compassion—something we all need to practice and to receive— can be characterized by the first three words of this song: Take a moment. 

I invite you to listen with me as you read this blog post.

Compassion and taking a moment

Two concepts of compassion emerge from the Old Testament.

First, compassion is the intense longing of tender love that can cause physical pain, extending from the innermost depths of our vital organs or the womb.

Second, compassion is the act of sparing someone from harm or pain or difficulty.

We see examples of these concepts of compassion many times in Scripture.

In Genesis 43:30, a prideful, favored son turned slave and prisoner finds himself lord over the entire Egyptian empire. Interactions with his starving, fearful brothers cause him to take a moment to allow his intense grief and tears to rise to the level of deep longing for restoration even after suffering grave offenses. After taking that moment, Joseph’s compassion leads him to extend his resources to save his father Jacob’s family—including the brothers who betrayed him—and thereby preserves the Hebrew family tree.

In Exodus 2:8, a privileged, protected, pampered princess takes a moment to notice a basket in a river and investigate its contents. She connects the cries of the baby she finds there to the Hebrew families who must sacrifice their children to obey her father’s commands. She spares the baby, a direct descendent of the once-favored Joseph, not only out of the basket, the river, and death, but to a lifetime of care and protection. Pharaoh’s daughter spares Moses with multifaceted compassion that hinges on the moment she took  on the banks of the river. 

A personal experience with taking a moment

Recently, a young woman kept popping up in my mind. I eventually texted her a short message: “Hey, thinking of you.” It turns out, her mother had just passed away from COVID pneumonia. She was on a sudden three-day trip to Georgia to meet with her sisters and say goodbye. She so appreciated my tiny kind words. When she returned, we walked along the harbor while she shared her memories of her mother and the mysterious struggle with grief. It only took a moment to activate compassion. 

How do we help students learn, practice, and value compassion?

Providence School, where I teach the sixth grade class, has a mission, motto, and various “habits of the mind” we strive to develop, with the goal to see them flourish in our graduates. Compassion is one such habit.

Recess-time provides the perfect arena for spreading wings of compassion. Students leave the routine and structure of their classrooms and race toward relief, freedom, and recreation. They move their bodies and renew their minds running across the field or climbing up slides and ladders. Most of the time, partnership and laughter prevail.

At other moments, students jam their fingers, scrape their knees, struggle to compromise, find their ideas are not chosen, or even are ignored. Their eyes dim; their shoulders droop. In that moment, another student may reach out with help and comfort. These daily experiences provide the perfect opportunity to learn and practice compassion.

Teachers are moment-makers, hoping one day these children will be moment-makers on their own. Our goal is that they will take a moment and help someone, apologize, love someone, or lift someone in Christlike compassion.

Daily life on the playground and in the classroom provides students the arena to nurture compassion through consistent practice. Extended isolation and too much privacy short-circuit opportunities for bending, adjusting, and showing preference for the needs of others over oneself. With social interaction, our students have built-in motivation for extending second chances and a gracious perspective.

What about adults in the school setting—and elsewhere?

At Providence, as well as at other distinctly Christian schools, we who encourage students to take moments for compassion must ourselves actively practice compassion. Words of kindness, offers for support, encouraging texts, or reassuring calls make a big difference in the lives of our communities. 

Over the past 19 months, COVID has impacted our efforts for active compassion, at school and elsewhere. Deep relationship history and loving trust are tested by each families’ unique needs and perspectives. More than ever before, we are tempted to isolate, grumble, or make judgments that might strain or even break opportunities to cement lifetime friendships. Birthday parties, play dates, and parent events have to pass through complicated steps to reassure safety for participants. 

We must reestablish markers of trust and respect and acceptance after months of letting go and prioritizing protection. The forbearance we extend each other demonstrates the active, wise, and loving compassion of Jesus within us.

We must cultivate, care, and respond to the moments around us. I know I couldn’t have made it through this last year of teaching without my loving and prayerful colleagues. Teachers need teachers. Moms need moms. Dads need dads. Kids need each other. We all need friends we can count on. Take a moment to embrace the vast resources in your community, as we are so blessed to have at Providence.

And, finally, what about Jesus?

I routinely ask my class, “How does this biblical story, verse, or concept point to the person and work of Jesus?” 

In Matthew 9:36, Jesus sees the multitudes fainting and scattered, harassed and helpless, without a shepherd and hungry. He takes a moment to invite his disciples into his compassion for these followers and feeds them bread. Jesus broadens love to action and we can do the same with our meager offerings, comforting and preserving the people we do life with.

In Luke 23:39, as Jesus endures death on the cross, he takes a moment to speak with a fellow prisoner. He recognizes repentance and humility and hope in the person next to him. As the crucified One offers forgiveness to the crucified criminal beside him, Jesus offers us his compassionate mercy and grace and the reality of paradise, despite his own agony, blood, and labored breath. 

Take a moment.

What do you see in the eyes of the person next to you? Do their shoulders, walk, or posture show signs of pain, weariness, conflict, or doubt? When we extend the mission and vision of Jesus’s compassion into the moments of our day, we will bless those around us with an easier yoke and a lighter burden. Habitually offering active compassion releases good into our days.

As you lift the loads of others, the Lord will lift you.

<strong>April Torres</strong>
April Torres

A 6th grade teacher at Providence School in Santa Barbara, CA, she enjoys leading students through core content areas that activate discovery, discipleship, and human creativity inspired by God, shepherded by Jesus, with significant purpose in the Holy Spirit.

Libertas Goes to South Dakota

Libertas Scholars Blog | Bruce Rottman, Libertas Scholars Program Director

In the past several years, our country appears to be at an inflection point, with statist solutions to problems becoming more popular and more common. This July, ten Libertas Scholars from Providence spent four full days exploring these issues at FreedomFest in South Dakota. Graduates Christine Venzor and Olivia Bates, seniors Liza Coffin and Davis Peterson, juniors Avala Elwood, Emma Johnson, Ruby Kilpper, Jacklyn Pryko, and sophomores Teleios Zermeno and Eliana Bordin were chaperoned by Mr. and Mrs. Rottman for an intense and entertaining conference on the Western plains.

Students connect with Dr. Mark Skousen, FreedomFest Founder 

Libertas Scholars are required to attend a summer program, but COVID-19 made that impossible in 2020. This summer was a different story, allowing students to travel to Rapid City, where 2,700 “free minds” met “to celebrate great books, great ideas, and great thinkers.” There they were challenged by hundreds of options (presented in debates, talks, and films) and a variety of opinions. 

Students took full advantage of the many opportunities. 

— We heard Governor Noem of South Dakota and Senator Mike Lee of Utah

Governor Kirsti Noem introduces herself to the attendees
Senator Mike Lee (Utah) and his wife, Sharon, get a selfie with Liza

— Students were fascinated to learn how New Testament geography adds insights into what Jesus really said about justice and economics in a talk by Jerry Bowyer

— California gubernatorial candidate (and talk show host) Larry Elder inspired the attendees

Larry Elder rallies the crowd

— We saw several amazing documentaries at the simultaneous Anthem Film Festival

— Senior Davis Peterson served as one of 12 jurors on a Mock Trial on whether the pandemic lockdown was justified

— We heard insightful comments from economists Stephen Moore, Diedre McCloskey, and many others

— And we heard author Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s defense of America’s war on Islamic terrorism, countered by an equally cogent and  convincing counterpoint from scholar Scott Horton

— Some of us saw a hilariously raucous debate, “Boomer vs. Zoomer: Which Generation Is More Dangerous to Freedom?” (Conclusion: they both are equally dangerous)

—We bought books, visited booths in the large exhibit hall, and laughed with comedians

Olivia and talk show host Dave Rubin

— We explored historic downtown Rapid City, played mini-golf, and experienced a moving lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore

Students experienced first hand the problem of tradeoffs (should we see an inspiring movie or hear a senator speak?), were tantalized by vendors’ treats, and competed in daily photo contests, trying to capture the best and oddest images from the Festival.

Checking out one of many statues in Rapid City upon our arrival at the airport

In addition to ten hours of learning each day and experiencing a civil exchange of ideas, students from different classes also enjoyed getting to know one another, which they missed out on during the past year of enforced cohorts, while exploring a different part of the country. 

But most of all, students gained an deeper appreciation for and understanding of the principles of freedom that have made our country a light on a hill. 

As Ruby wrote, “I was compelled by the consistent message of hope for America and progress towards a more free society.” Eliana added that she learned “new perspectives of the ideas we’ve learned about,” while Olivia noted how it was “healthy to talk across political divides.” Given how social media tends to move us into echo chambers, FreedomFest brought about “conversations with those who have different beliefs” and helped students “build up our own convictions as we participate in society today.” Liza noted that the broad range of ideas and speakers highlighted the “common values of freedom and individual rights that brought them all together;” like Olivia, she noted the “civil political discourse done with grace and respect” for other people’s values.

We trust that students will take these lessons into the upcoming school year, their college experiences, and their lives, and we are grateful for the generosity of Providence supporters, Robert and Margie Niehaus, who made it possible for our students to experience this enlightening and educational program.

Bruce Rottman
Bruce Rottman

Humanities, economics, and government teacher at Providence School; Libertas Scholars program director

Providence Launches TRIAD, A New Special Interest Exploration Program for High School Students

TRIAD (Travel, Research, Investigate, Apprentice, Discover), is an in-depth exploration of student/faculty interests designed to promote active engagement with topics that promote curiosity, collaboration, and problem-solving. Providence, an independent Preschool–Grade 12 school in Santa Barbara, is restructuring the Upper School (grades 9–12) academic calendar into three terms to make room for the exciting new program launching in May 2022.

TRIAD offers students the opportunity to delve into areas of interest outside of regular coursework. Creatively designed classes encourage critical thinking and appreciation for increased complexity or challenge. This third term with capstone presentations will further the Providence blueprint vision of strategic influence in Santa Barbara and beyond as the school seeks to prepare students to engage and serve their communities.

TRIAD showcases the diverse abilities of talented faculty while offering a broader range of courses for students to explore. Students may experiment with something new or choose to do a deep dive into areas of academic interest. Students may also earn course credit through internships, international travel, and independent study. Students receive 2.5 to 5 credits for each two-week course, depending on scope and challenge.

Tentative course proposals include: Athens & Crete Excursion (antiquities and history), Backcountry Hiking (first aid and wilderness training), Toward a Moral Vision of Games (game theory), Business and Entrepreneurship, Linoleum Block Printmaking, Plein Air Painting, Mock Trial, Movie Making, Triathlon Training, and Conversational Spanish and Spain Excursion. Additional options are being developed to match faculty expertise and passion with student interest. 

The name “TRIAD,”  suggests the idea of three things fitting harmoniously together; for example, a chord of three tones. This three-part motif runs through the Providence School motto, “Pursuing truth, beauty, and excellence,” as well as the educational blueprint for achieving the goals of Intellectual Preparation, Spiritual Formation, and Strategic Influence. Additionally, participating in the TRIAD program will amplify three outcomes for students: developing their interests, their aptitudes, and their passions.

Middle and Upper School principal Rodney Meadth is excited and eager to launch TRIAD. Speaking about the new program, he says:

“Providence School rests solidly upon the creativity and enthusiasm of our teachers and students. We learned a lot during COVID about how resourceful and adaptable our teachers and students are. As an independent school, we have broad freedom to craft programs and classes that we believe are worth pursuing—not because any external entity requires it of us. TRIAD gives us a chance to showcase the talent and experience of our community in unexpected ways!” 

To learn more about TRIAD and other educational opportunities for preschool through high school students at Providence, contact Admissions Director Tawny Kilpper ( or 805-962-3091.

COVID, Learning, and Liberty

COVID, Learning, and Liberty

Bend the curve. Social distancing. A few months ago, these might have referenced grading trends or high school dances, but now, they seem destined to enter 2020’s lexicon as something we’d like to forget.

What’s it like to do distance learning at Providence? Two personal first impressions:

1) Providence teachers and students pivoted to online learning over a weekend, and though it wasn’t seamless, it was amazing. We are still doing excellent work! Just speaking for myself (other teachers are far more creative and competent than me), I’ve given lectures, had one-on-one tutorial sessions, class discussions, conducted a mock trial, and zoomed quizzes and tests. And, of course, students get grades. 

2)  But. There’s always a “but,” right? Online learning teaches you why a traditional face-to-face education is so valuable and “lockdown learning” (that’s my term) is so confining and incomplete. I miss lunchtime and study hall and before school and after school conversations with students. I miss the ease of traditional education. I typically had nearly 2000 minutes of face to face interactions with students each week, which is why I never longed to talk to anyone right after school—I was too tuckered out. Now, I’m lucky to get a few hundred virtual face to face minutes with students per week and I’m talking to myself too much at home.

The good news is, this will pass. No longer will I hear a freshman say, “Raise your virtual hand!” I won’t miss the occasional garbled audio feeds, the “just got out of bed” appearances from some students, the barking dogs and binging computers, and my own steep learning curves with distance learning.

Life will get much better. I have always reminded students how good we all have it. We are 35 times, give or take a few “times,” wealthier than our ancestors. Our problems are often (though certainly not always) trivial. The Black Death killed a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century. Chinese peasants mugged each other over the results of their retrieval of  buckets of “night soil” from the common latrines. Life is strained now, but our ancestors faced worse issues. We will defeat this virus, and when we do, inexorably, life will not only return to normal, it will be so much more sweet! The pent up demand will find goods, businesses will rehire workers, we’ll be able to sit down at restaurants, and the koinonia will return in full measure to our church gatherings.

Some things may change. In the past, crises tended to birth a statist leviathan; I hope that doesn’t happen. The handshake had a good, 1000 year run; that may be over. Some ways of doing business will evolve. We might want to stomp, virtually of course, on our Zoom software. And some good will perhaps emerge–a re-emergence of federalism would be refreshing, as states do their own experiments in reacting to the virus.

But let’s also embrace the “not change” portions of our lives when the corona virus is dethroned. Let’s enjoy lively give and take, good communal meals, hugs and shoulder rubs. Let’s continue caring for the vulnerable, and look forward to the day when students and teachers can both return to our classrooms, white boards, shared dining tables, sports, plays, games, lounging on the artificial turf—the things that make life sweet.

See you all, hopefully soon—in the classrooms, not at all virtually, but in flesh and blood, and sooner than we expect or fear. 

Words and Numbers Hosts Visit Providence

By Chloe Olsen, Class of 2021

Coercion’s grasp is capable of stripping American society of liberties, and our deliverance relies on cooperation.

On Tuesday, February 21, Drs. James Harrigan and Antony Davies presented a talk to Providence students targeting these concepts. Dr. Harrigan is the managing director of the Center for Philosophy of Freedom and the University of Arizona, and Dr. Davies is a professor of economics at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh. In their popular podcast, “Words and Numbers,” the two delve into philosophy and economics. They are currently traveling the country and have now visited Providence three times in the past four years to impart their wisdom to high school students entering into a world where an awareness of subjects like these is crucial. Providence is a school that places an immense gravity on students’ knowledge of ideas, including economic and political ideas. They talked about the governmental hold on citizens’ lives, the extent to which coercion should be accepted and considered beneficial, and the fruits of cooperation. As authors of Cooperation and Coercion, a book that unpacks the tendency in human relations to either comply or constrain, they posed the pros and cons of both trends during their talk.

Harrigan began the discussion on the topic of coercion. Explaining the problematic nature of societal constrictions, he addressed the myriad of limitations on day-to-day activities such as those on our use of water and where we can cross the street. Another form of coercion from the government appears in the price of harmful products. He gave the example of the dramatic increase in the cost of cigarettes. During the 1980s, a pack of cigarettes could be purchased for roughly one dollar, while today a pack costs nearly seven dollars. In an attempt to prevent unhealthy habits, our government has nudged citizens into living a life they believe is best for us.

Students were encouraged to question these regulations. Should such constraints exist to prevent self-inflicted harm, or should regulations be in place solely to prevent one person from harming another? Nations exercising too much coercion become consumed by a sea of regulations on everyday life which compromise the liberty that keeps our country afloat. With examples such as China’s social credit system and its former limits on the amount of children per family, Harrigan warned of the damaging effects of a coercive government.

Post-presentation, students in the Libertas Scholars program meet Dr. Harrigan and Dr. Davies.

Rather than forceful leadership, perhaps our prosperity depends on cooperation. Davies led students in an interactive experiment that emulated real-world commerce. Students divided into groups of four who traded within the group, aiming to multiply their products and create the largest amount of goods possible. One side had a comparative advantage and was significantly more efficient at production than its competition. However, despite one group’s lack of skill and one’s clear industrial domination, both gained from the cooperation; in fact, those who were the poorest improved more. Through this experimental economics, Davies demonstrated that trade works to not only make us all better off, but also to decrease economic inequality. With an engaging, palpable take on production and consumption, his example helped students understand the often unrecognized fairness of cooperative exchange. Similar to this exercise, there exists a reciprocity in cooperation that debunks the popular notion that all sellers are thieves. Trade produces profit for the disadvantaged in the deal and lessens economic inequality.

In groups of four, Providence students and teachers participate in an interactive economics experiment led by Dr. Davies.
Students work together to solve production and efficiency problems through trading.
Drs. Harrigan and Davies conclude the discussion with a Q and A, where students had the opportunity to ask questions about the talk and about economics and politics in general.

The matter of whether force or compliance is best for our nation is certainly relevant. Amidst the current political climate and upcoming election, an understanding of economics is especially vital. With a unique optimism, Harrigan shared that he expects our generation to have an awareness of the importance of liberty and value of trade that many millenials do not always recognize.

Our school promotes the economic and political education of students, as this insight is necessary for navigating the world of politics and life as an American citizen. Providence High School students   attained a worthwhile understanding of coercion and cooperation from Tuesday’s discussion and greatly appreciated the two talks. Students were particularly drawn to the comprehensibility of the presentation. Senior Chloe Norton shared, “They make economics a more tangible subject. I think that a lot of the times I am intimidated by the concepts, but both Antony Davies and James Harrigan make it simple without losing its vast complexity.” Others were motivated to further their understanding in this area. Junior Nolan Lundgaard said, “I thought it was so great to hear from these economists today, and everything they had to say about the benefits of working together and the drawbacks (and the good) that result from coercion. It just underlines the importance of cooperation in society and that things will be better off once humans begin working with others. The whole presentation was super inspiring.” Junior Josh Frankenfield added, “Personally, I really enjoyed the presentations… It was quite intriguing to see the contrasting ways on solving problems (coercion vs. cooperation) and which option yields better results. Discussions and topics like those that were presented are the reason why I am fascinated by economics.”

James Harrigan and Antony Davies spurred on a venture for learning political and economic truth and a cultivation of knowledge through considering that coercion may be poisoning liberties, but cooperation is fruitful to all.