A descendant of old timers Art and Hazel Fenton, who purchased 240 acres in the Minter area in 1939, Kolby Asbra has deep roots on the Key Peninsula.
“That land has been a really special part of my family’s history. My great-grandparents gave each of their four kids 50 acres. My parents, who have been married 48 years, still live on the land my Grandpa Eddie gave to his three boys,” Asbra said. “It’s beautiful and much of it isn’t developed.”
Asbra and her two sisters grew up there. Her three sons, David (14), Kameron (12) and Dustin (10), enjoy going there to play horseshoes, camp, and have Easter egg hunts in the forest.
After graduating from Henderson Bay High School and going to college in California, where she majored in early childhood education, Asbra returned to teach preschoolers at Vaughn Elementary in 2000.
“I think teaching preschool is one of the most meaningful jobs that can ever be done,” she said. “The trust parents had in me, and what I saw happening in that stage of the preschoolers’ lives and the parents’ lives, and how meaningful all of that is, is so powerful.”
Asbra is known for her Mister Rogers-like presence, humor and kindness.
“It was later in life that the whole concept of who Mister Rogers was really started to resonate with me,” she said. “He inspired me to continue being who I’d become and encouraged me not to feel overwhelmed with the weight of the world, to just keep gently pushing through and being me. His conscious, thoughtful choice to carefully and purposefully help humans to be better is something I completely relate to.”
Her whole life changed one morning in 2003 when a tall, handsome man named Dave walked into her classroom to drop off his nephew.
“He stayed there by the cubbies watching circle time and my goodness, I couldn’t breathe the entire time,” she said.
Dave, a Marine on leave from active duty in Japan and awaiting his final discharge papers, was only supposed to be home for a few weeks. But he asked Kolby out on a date and as luck would have it, his papers arrived and he never went back.
“He figured out a way to stay because he had met his future wife,” she said. “They sent him his stuff.”
Asbra left teaching to start her family, but as her sons made their way through preschool, she returned as a volunteer and later joined the Vaughn Elementary PTA, where she is now in her sixth year on the board, serving as president.
In 2018, Asbra was recruited to teach at a new preschool in Home, where parents described her as magnificent, nurturing and kind with saint-like patience — the ultimate preschool teacher.
“She’s calm but energizes the kids,” said Tiffani Martinez. “She’s so creative and can see the project or situation through the eyes of the children.”
“When a kid gains confidence in an area where they may not have had it before, and you feel like maybe something you did helped get them there, that’s my biggest reward as a teacher, or a mom,” Asbra said. “A lot of the things we’re teaching preschoolers are the exact same things a lot of our adults need to remember. I think our world would be a completely different place if humans lived by some of the basic fundamentals that we teach preschoolers about social interactions and how to be kind, how to have self-control.”
Although Asbra loved teaching preschool again, she felt over-stretched and realized she needed to resign at the end of 2020 school year.
“The most challenging thing about preschool, actually, was both of the times I quit,” Asbra said. “I missed it a lot for the years I was away. When the time came for me to resign again because I knew I needed to put my family first, it’s like I felt selfish. And I hate how abruptly school ended.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Asbra finds happiness watching her sons reconnect, playing family games, hiking, and cooking together.
“I’ve tried hard to focus on the things I can control and make the best of it. I’m really proud of my kids for being so resilient and flexible.”
Quoting Fred Rogers, Asbra said, “How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra special meaning?”
She added, “I like the simple life that I’m trying to have here, and if it wasn’t for my husband, I wouldn’t have any of this. He’s my hero. I’m one of the lucky ones. My life is a dream.”