When Keith Debro boarded a Greyhound bus bound for the 1959 World Series in Los Angeles, he never could have imagined that 55 years later, and well after his playing days were over, he would take the field for a Major League Baseball All-Star Game. On July 15, 2014 there he was representing the Oakland Athletics as part of the People All-Star Teachers Program. “It’s hard to describe the feeling I had standing on that field,” said Debro, who is currently teaching Education 511 at Brandman’s Walnut Creek Campus.
The former St. Mary’s College player was elected by A’s fans to join 29 other teachers, each representing a Major League Baseball franchise, for a pre-game ceremony at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While on the field, this group of very deserving educators was serenaded by recording artist Idina Menzel prior to first pitch.
Debro is not sure how many votes he received, but he does know he was one of three finalists that A’s fans had to choose from. He was nominated by his wife Kelly McDonald after she came across an advertisement in People Magazine seeking, what she thought, was a 500 word nomination of a dedicated East Bay area teacher. “It turned out to be a 500 character nomination regarding teaching and a love of baseball,” said Debro. Hardly enough characters to do this man and his teaching career justice. Not to mention his love of baseball, which began at age four.
Debro has been teaching special education in the Oakland Unified School District for 25 years. He has spent the last 14 years at Oakland Technical High School. It’s that dedication that drove A’s fans to elect him as their representative. Debro started a successful after-school mentoring program that pairs high school students with elementary school students. He also makes sure that he attends all parent, student, and teacher association meetings so the voices of his special education students and their parents are heard.
Often times, Debro uses his own money to feed his students on field trips. At the conclusion of each school year, he takes his students on a field trip to the coast on his own dime. Debro is so dedicated to his students that he rushed back from the All-Star Game in Minneapolis to assist his special education students with a trip to the DMV so they could apply for California identification cards. “We got four kids ID’s, so that was something.”
Debro’s love of baseball started at age 4 when his grandmother took him to his first game, a 1959 World Series game featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Nine years later, the Oakland Athletics moved west from Kansas City and the Oakland native finally had a team he could call his own. His passion for the game combined with his high skill level, led him to a college baseball career at St. Mary’s College in Moraga where he aspired to one day be a big leaguer. But his real passion becomes evident when asked if he wishes he could have played baseball professionally. “It would have been great, but I really love what I do now. I am enjoying teaching now more than I did ten years ago. I love the kids I work with, especially during the summer program where I work with the severely handicapped. They are just great kids.”
While at the All-Star game, Debro met Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. at a Sunday night reception. “At the reception, they read my story in front of Cal Ripken,” said Debro. “It detailed how my high school guidance counselor told me I should skip college and go to a vocational school. When I got to take a picture with Cal, he turned to me and said, ‘I had a similar situation with baseball, they told me I shouldn’t play, so I am sure that person in no longer working in the game.’
Debro is an adjunct faculty member at Brandman University’s Walnut Creek and Fairfield Campuses. He is actively teaching Education 511 this session at Walnut Creek, a course that focuses on Collaboration for Inclusive Schooling. “Special education changes pretty quickly, so I am glad to be there in the classroom to assist our students with my real world experience.”
Brandman University congratulates Keith Debro on his “All-Star” status and applauds his efforts on behalf of special education students and their parents. It’s an honor well deserved.