Remarkable Teachers

userpic=young-meAs I left for work this morning, I saw posts on the Pacific Palisades Facebook Community about the death of Rose Gilbert at age 95. I’ve been thinking about this as I eat lunch, for Rose was one of those remarkable teachers who taught for the love of it, to inspire her students to be better people — it wasn’t just a job eeking out the years.  When Rose retired in March 2013 at the age of 94, she was the oldest full-time teacher in LAUSD, and had been teaching for 63 years. The first few years of that teaching career was at University HS; the remainder — since the school opened — was at Palisades HS. Further, she didn’t have to teach — she married into money and was essentially (and in reality, after his death) a millionaire. She donated largely to the school, including funds to build an on-site aquatic center.

Now, I never had a class from Mrs. Gilbert. She had the AP English and AcaDec students, not folks like me. But she is a shining examples of those public school teachers who change lives. This little woman — who everyone called “Mama G” — made the difference to untold numbers of students. I can think of numerous other examples at Pali — Bill Layton comes to mind — as well as the teachers who influenced the direction of my life. In particular, I think of George Wendt and Larry Schoenberg (son of the composer, Arnold Schoenberg), who influenced me to go into the computer world. I see similar teachers going above and beyond regularly — such as Fanny Araña and Jean Martellaro at Nobel MS, who run the drama program. These are teachers that change lives for the better. These are also the teachers that one never encounters if one depends only on home schooling.

So, on this day of Mama G’s death, let’s pause for a moment to reflect upon and thank the teachers that make a difference in the lives of their students. I’d love for you to share a story of a teacher that changed your life for the better.


That Old Gang of Mine

Last year, I wrote about the Pali Picnic in the Park. Today was the 2nd Annual Picnic, and like last year, I had a wonderful time. First and foremost, thanks to  Greg Elowe and  Nancy Roof Hale for organizing the event.

As I noted last year, by the time you’re past your 30th reunion, the class and clique lines go away, and you’re unified by the bonds of survival. Much of this group were folks that hung around off-campus (whereas I hung in the math lab programming in FORTRAN and BASIC)—but this many years removed, that doesn’t make a whit of a difference. I had a delightful time reminiscing about how things have changed since our simple world of the 1970s. I think the difference is best summed up by a line I overheard: “What we did back then today would be felonies.”

This is, in many ways, quite true. The youthful pranks we did in high school, be it plastering the school with “Soylent Green Day” signs to other pranks, would now be considered vandalism by the hair-trigger administrations in place in our schools today. Is this a good thing? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

We also noted how we had it much easier back then. Many fewer APs, and universities were much easier to get into (for example, anything above a 3.5 GPA got you into UCLA. Try that today). Today? My daughter is working her tush off with 4 APs and play production in 11th grade, and she’s far from alone. Again: we’re not providing time for kids to be kids. They rarely have time to make those formative mistakes. Is this a good thing? Again, I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Again, thanks to the organizers for this event. To my Pali Hi alum friends reading this: I hope to see you at next year’s picnic, if not before. We need to celebrate the fact we have survived! Please coordinate with  Greg Elowe to ensure you get the announcements.


Reunion in the Park

Today, I went to my high school reunion. I know, I know. I graduated in 1977, and what class holds a /42nd/ *32nd* reunion? So perhaps I should explain.

A bunch of Pali High folks have been reconnecting via Facebook, and some of them had the wonderful idea to coordinate an impromptu reunion at Palisades Park. As I’m active on the net and connected to a number of these folks, I was invited… and you know me, I jump at the chance to go to things like this.

When I got there, I only knew a few folks. It seemed that most of the folks were from a different circle than I was in. This was the group, based on the pictures I was seeing, that was a bit more into the partying and accompanying side activities than me. I was in the Math Lab; they were on the quad. But as I walked around and listened to the conversation, I came to an interesting realization: these distinctions and cliques that separated us in high school made no difference these days. We had survived to (almost) our 50s. That was remarkable in itself (especially given our class :-)), and I think it is part of the wisdom that comes with age. Divisions and shyness and things that separate us when we are young become meaningless as we age. We become people. As a result of these distinctions melting away, I had a wonderful time talking to people about what they did, what I did, and their journies through life. As such, I made some new friends, folks I may see again, and folks that I probably wouldn’t have talked to in high school. We grow, we learn. Isn’t life wonderful?

I also found the conversations quite interesting, especially the most common question asked of people: “Are you on Facebook?”. Yup. Facebook isn’t just for the kids anymore. It is for the parents and the grandparents. It is not where we play scrabble and answer quizzes, but where we reconnect with our generation outside the context of the formal reunion. In doing so, we have finally found the way to cross those year lines: the artificial lines that separated the class of 1977 from the classes of 1978 and 1976, even though in reality we had friends in all the grades. This was the great thing about the event that was coordinated: seeing people from other years that you didn’t see at the reunions themselves.

The reunion also provided the potential of a special reconnection to me: there were a group of people who hung around the Math Lab that I’ve been wanting to reconnect with for years. Some I have, or will soon (Rick (through Susan), Cliff). Some I lost touch with, and thought I might never contact again (in particular, Jeff and Ted G.) Today at the reunion I was talking to someone (Cory I-Don’t-Know-Her-Last-Name), and mentioned that I hung around the Math Lab. She said, “Oh, you must know my brother, Jeff”. She brought me up to speed, and will pass on my contact info to Jeff and Ted. This made coming to this event worth it!

I should note that I also had a fair number of people asking if I had a brother, Alan. I had to tell them Alan was my cousin. Funny how I never got that question in high school :-).

So I thank the organizers of this event: Greg, Nancy, Steve, and all the other folks I’m forgetting to mention. It was delightful, and we’ll have to do it again. Do remind me to bring my notes from the various past reunions (for I still have the 1977 reunion books from the 10th, 20th, and 30th).


Reuni0n Observations

Last night was my 30th High School reunion. It was held at the Mountaingate Country Club at the top of the Sepulveda Pass, a beautiful location for seeing the freeway. So naturally, I liked it :-). No, I’m not going to imply that there was any meaning from the location other than the view (the country club is actually built on top of a former landfill). As to what I thought of the reunion:

  • First and foremost, I thank the reunion organizers for pulling off a wonderful night. There is a lot of hard work that goes into making these things happen, and the organizers don’t get the appreciation they deserve.
  • Naturally, at a reunion you want to circulate. However, it seemed a bit crowded to do as effectively as one would like. Perhaps there were more people than expected; I don’t know. All I do know was that it was quite difficult to move around the bar area and between the tables.
  • Another problem (remember this if you ever organize a reunion) was that it was hard to talk. The primary purpose of a reunion is to talk to old friends and classmates The glass windows that showed off the geogeous view also reflected the sound, increasing background noise. There was also a 1970s style rock band making it even harder to talk — IMHO, the band’s volume needed to be drastically limited so it could only be heard in the area of the dance floor.
  • It was fun watching the people. So classmates have aged quite elegantly, and were looking stunning (the ladies) or quite handsome (the men). Others had finally grown into their looks: the gawky teens turned into striking adults. Many of the black ladies had grown even more beautiful.
  • But I also saw that where some improve, some don’t. Many of those who were sun worshippers in high school (quite common in a school four blocks from the beach) were showing the effects after 30 years. Some didn’t choose flattering dress styles. Many men had hair loss — some handled it with grace and some didn’t. Some folks looked to be in their late 30s and early 40s, and others looked like they were already in their mid-50s. gf_guruilla said that I was one of the folks looking on the younger side (although I still wish I had lost a few pounds before the event).
  • I must say, while I’m on this subject, that gf_guruilla looked ravishing last night. And it is so much fun to ravish her :-).
  • One goes to a reunion to talk, and it was interesting to see where folks ended up. We had teachers, we had engineers. We had folks running day schools, and folks doing home schooling. We had finance directors of studios, former LAUSD school board members, and newscasters. We had folks active in the environmental arena, dancers, and lawyers. It was quite an interesting mix.

All in all, it was a fun evening. We didn’t close down the night (we left around 11:15pm), but had a blast!

Today, it is off to a “A Day Out With Thomas” at Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. If you’re out at OERM, I’ll be Thomas Car Attendant, so stop by and say “Hi!”.

P.S.: A big and hearty “Welcome to LiveJournal” to any PaliHi grads finding my journal from my notes in the 30th Bio Book. It’s great to have you here. Come on in — the water’s warm, and we do our best to keep the sharks out.


Revisiting the Past

Tonight is my 30th High School reunion (yes, I graduated in 1977 from Pacific Palisades High School). I’m actually looking forward to it, even though I was part of the “Math Lab Crew”, not one of the “popular kids”. Perhaps it is because, over time, I’ve decided that what is important is that I like myself, not whether others like me. I believe that comes across now in how I interact with people, and I look forward to seeing those who I know. I look forward to seeing what they became, learning about their lives, and sharing what’s been happening with me. Of course, I’ll be directing folks here to my LJ, because I’m actually pretty happy with what I write here.

It is amazing where life takes one. I look back at the 10th reunion book, the 20th reunion book, and look at myself today… and aside from a little extra weight, I think I look better now than I did back in 1987, and certainly better than back in high school. I still have all my hair (something, from looking at past reunion books, that a lot of the guys can’t say). I still have the same wife (not everyone can say that). I have a great daughter, who impresses me more and more every day. I’ve been doing work I enjoy for almost 20 years, and have gained a positive professional reputation. So, for someone who was in the “out” group, I’ve done pretty well.

I know there are those reading this that don’t care for their high school days. To each their own. Me… if there were bad days, well I no longer remember them. I remember the fun. I remember celebrating “Soylent Green Day”. I remember hanging around the Math Lab with Mr. Schoenberg (son of the composer) programming in WATFIV and BASIC. I remember physics with Bill Layton, math with Ken Kay, english with Russell Smith. I even remember courses such as accounting, chemistry, and history.

So I’m looking forward to tonight. Now if I could just get rid of this damned sinus headache that’s been bothering me all day.

[Tomorrow, by the way, is “Day Out With Thomas” at Orange Empire Railway Museum. If you are coming out to OERM, nsshere and I are working from 10:30a to closing as Thomas Car Attendants. Stop by and say “Hi!”]


Dolphin Welcome Message

My 30th High School Reunion is next Saturday night (yes, I’m that old). With the reunion came the publishing of a “bio book”, and in my bio, I pointed folks to this here journal. So, to any Class of 1977 Dolphins reading this… welcome. I encourage you to drop a comment on this post indicating you stopped by, and I also encourage you to create a LiveJournal account and join me in this corner of the world (I’m also on MySpace as “cahwyguy”, but that account just points here). Hopefully, I’ll see you at the party on Saturday night.


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?