Coming from a family of educators, Bethanie Gilbert had no intention of being a teacher. Instead, she studied classical ballet and modern dance though high school, then graduated from Cornell University with a combined English/Anthropology major. Actually, her real majors (though no academic credit) were journalism, dance, the Cornell Wilderness Outing Club and politics. She covered the Civil Rights Bill in Washington DC from the Senate Press Gallery, did voter registration in the South, and helped shut down Cornell University during the Vietnam War. She also did winter mountaineering, ice climbing and spelunking in her spare time. After graduation, she went to New York City, continued to study dance, worked as a journalism instructor at a community center in Harlem and was there during the riots after Martin Luther King was assassinated. She also began teaching theater and dance in New York public schools.
Working with children from all over the world led her to a summer of study at the Center for World Music and Dance in Berkeley, California, which led to 35 years performing and teaching the masked dance of Western Java, Indonesia. As a lead dancer for West Java Arts and the University of California, Santa Cruz gamelan, she has performed throughout the United States and in Indonesia. At the same time, the wilderness beckoned, so her “free” time was spent working as a sea kayak and white water rafting guide for both commercial companies and a non-profit that makes outdoor adventure accessible for people with disabilities. She has rafted class 4+ rivers with participants who are quadriplegic, legally blind, severely head injured and recovering from strokes. They have been among the most courageous people she has ever met.
She was drawn into teaching by the opportunity to share the things she loves with young people, to inspire them to build lives around what they love, and develop the practical skills to support that pursuit. In addition to teaching at Fusion Marin, she is the Lead Interpretive Docent at China Camp State Park, developing and leading natural history programs that promote awareness of the interdependence of all Earth’s species.
Oh yes, ask her about having built her own dinghy, doing commercial salmon fishing, almost being run over in the fog by a container ship, and riding freight trains with hobos from the Bay Area to Los Angeles.