California Educator

April/May 2021

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Page 49 of 63

W H E N J I M K L I P F E L was nominated for California Teacher of the Year, he wanted to win for the sake of the Saugus High School community rather than for himself. " I want ed to bring a smile to Saugus and improve morale," explains Klipfel, a member of Hart District Teachers Association (HDTA). "Hav- ing something that the school could celebrate was very important to me. I didn't want to let anybody down." He didn't. e social studies teacher and swim coach was not only selected as one of ve 2021 California Teachers of the Year but was named California's nominee for National Teacher of the Year as well. It was an emotional win for a school commu- nity that has suffered enormous trauma. Three months prior to the pandemic, a student shot and killed two classmates and himself, and wounded two others. Klipfel was one of the rst arriving on the scene to comfort students. e Santa Clarita school briey closed down after the Nov. 14, 2019, tragedy. Sta collaborated during the closure on ways to support students by adapting curriculum, and even created a Wellness Center with a soothing environment for students and sta to seek counseling. Helping traumatized students After the school reopened in December 2019, the sta focused on easing students back into routine and letting them know they were loved and supported. Klip- fel raises Labradors for Guide Dogs of America and brought a dog on campus to oer comfort. "e recovery is longer and harder than outsid- ers realize," Klipfel observed at that time, noting the pain of having an empty chair in one of his classes. "But the vast majority of students and staff are hardworking and heroic people who accept there is a reason to get up the next day, and they are trying to live every day in a positive manner. e rest need our help." Students and sta were continuing their heal- ing process — and then the pandemic hit. The school closed abruptly again, and learning went online. Saying goodbye for the second time in four months was extremely dicult. When Klipfel learned he had been nominated by his principal to be a Teacher of the Year, his initial reaction was to decline. "If it weren't for COVID and the shooting, I would have felt much more at ease with the honor of being nominated," he explains. Klipfel measures personal success not in accolades, but in ways he can help and motivate students. Eventually, he decided to challenge himself in the same way "The vast majority of students and staff are trying to live every day in a positive manner. The rest need our help." In the wake of the Saugus High shooting, Klipfel, who raises Labradors for Guide Dogs of America, brought a dog to campus to help reassure students and sta™. Teacher of the Year Saugus High teacher's win boosts morale of traumatized community By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Kim Sanford 48 CTA & You Jim Klipfel

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