Teachers with passion


Two Saturdays ago I decided to call Head of Inter-campus Security Kevin Giberson. I was at the USC vs. UCLA game with two of my friends and it was a couple of hours before the game started, when I remembered that Giberson tailgated before many of the USC football games. He asked us to stop by and try some of his famous ribs, so we wove our way through rows  of RVs until we came on Giberson’s.

In a matter of minutes, Giberson had enthusiastically introduced us to his entire family including his 16-month-old granddaughter who only wanted to be picked up by grandpa. He then offered us his ribs with barbeque sauce made from scratch and his wife’s baked beans. He didn’t have to do it, but after he invited us to dine with his family without any second thoughts, I realized that even though he does not work in a classroom, Giberson is a teacher too. I started thinking about the different kinds of teachers.

What makes Harvard-Westlake not just a factory that spits out National Merit Scholars and 4.0’s is its colorful teachers like Giberson. Harvard-Westlake can attribute much of its prestige to these teachers who keep finding new ways for students to listen and challenge themselves.
We are a school that prides itself on molding young adults and preparing them for what lies ahead. We see it in our athletic program — how often have I walked by Ted Slavin Field or the weight room to hear coaches screaming at our student athletes to motivate them. This is not a bad thing; I believe that the ends justify the means.

Go ahead and ask some of our student athletes, and they will tell you their coaches have been some of the most memorable teachers they have had.

If we believe that we shouldn’t have colorful teachers in the classroom or in the theater or on the field, teachers  who yell and intimidate and call it like they see it, then we need a serious reality check. Because those types of people exist in the world, too, and they are the people who challenge us and drive us and teach us. The ones who defy convention and make us realize that we have done something great not until after that show is finished or we’ve caught that pass. I believe that these are some of our most memorable teachers.

As long as they don’t have a malicious intent, we need people to test the limits of what is appropriate and acceptable, or we are going to become that factory.

Many argue that Bobby Knight, who coached at Indiana University for 30 years, is one of the greatest coaches in any sport ever. Nicknamed “The General,” Knight is remembered for his notorious outbursts where he would swear and throw chairs. Knight also won his fair share of national championships, but, more importantly, his teams consistently had the highest graduation rates in the country.

I am not saying that every teacher or coach needs to have the attitude that they will keep challenging and dogging you until you get it right. And I’m not saying that teachers have to be like Bobby Knight to be inspirational.

Yet when we start to lose the people that tell us that we can’t eat food in the classroom because they can’t smoke a cigarette, or coaches who make us run windsprints even after the sun goes down, or those who teach us how to act on a professional level by treating us like professional actors, we lose so much more than a few high AP scores or a couple of rave reviews.
The school loses some of its natural capital, because we are losing people who really love what they do and make a difference.

Giberson can teach us how to make a mean barbeque sauce, but more importantly he doesn’t need a classroom to teach us about life. We need colorful teachers because they are the ones we learn the intangibles from. They provide us with the drive to conquer our problems, and they are the ones we are most grateful for in the long run.

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