Influencing Young Lives

Today’s Los Angeles Times (the article also made it to MSNBC) has an article the oldest teacher currently teaching within the LA Unified School District: Rose Gilbert. Mrs. Gilbert (better known as “Mama Gilbert” to her students) has been teaching at Pali Hi (wikipedia) since the school opened in 1961… and before that, she taught at University High School.

The article says many complementary things about Mama Gilbert: her love for her students, her love for her school, and her love for UCLA. These things I know well about her, for I went to Pali in the 1970s. However, I never had Mama Gilbert for a teacher: she got the AP English classes, and I was never at that level. I had Russell Smith, who no longer teaches there. But I do know that Mama Gilbert had tremendous influence on her student’s lives, and it is teachers who influenced you in that way that is the topic of this post.

So, if during my time at Pali, Mama Gilbert didn’t influence me, who did? I can think of two. Bill Layton, a physics teacher, did to some extent. His was a wild-and-crazy physics classroom, with gigantic speakers in the back. He influenced me less on physics, and more in things like science-fiction, and having fun with science. After he left Pali, he went on to UCLA, where he started a project to prepare future physics teachers. He is currently a lecturer in the UCLA Physics Department.

Even more that Bill Layton, however, was the high-school teacher that supported my interest in computers. Mind you, this was back in the mid-1970s, when computers weren’t that common. LA Unified was using both the MISS System (an IBM 360 running WATFIV) and an HP 3000 running BASIC. This teacher was Lawrence Schoenberg.

Now, the name Schoenberg may sound familar. After all, there was a famous composer Arnold Schönberg. His son, for a while, taught Mathematics, Calculus, and Computers at Pali Hi. Although I never had a formal math class from him (I had other folks, such as Mrs. McGrath and Dr. Kay), I spent a lot of time in his classroom (E203) hanging in the Math Lab. This is where my friends and I formed our love of working with computers — and is one of the reason I am where I am today. So where is Mr. Schoenberg today. From all I can find, he’s busy running his father’s institute (in particular Belmont Music), together with his brother Ronald and his sister Nuria.

So here’s to the teachers that have influenced our lives. Thank you. To those of you reading this who are teaching, thank you also for sharing your love and passion with students. You do make a difference.

So, which teachers have influenced you?