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Meet Jim Klipfel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jim Klipfel.

James Klipfel, the 2021 California Teacher of the Year. While nurturing mental health, James Klipfel inspires young people to acquire dreams, drive, confidence, and skills. For three decades, Klipfel has used his position as a teacher, coach, and adviser to challenge all students to develop these foundations, and he works at the school and district level to implement research-backed reforms. Born in Nebraska and educated in California, Klipfel is the youngest of eight. During WWII, his dad was a SeaBee and his mom worked on the homefront. They were hard-working patriots who instilled education and the golden rule. Klipfel earned Bachelor of Arts degree, history and political science from the University of California, Davis. He conducted his graduate work at the University of California, Irvine. And he studied Spanish at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Klipfel currently teaches eleventh-grade Advanced Placement United States history and coaches swimming at Saugus High School in Saugus, California. He has supported STEM via his Science Olympiad team, career paths with a journalism program, and struggling ninth-graders with a teamed intervention class. He attributes his education to his father’s access to the GI Bill—and the inspiring accomplishments of his older siblings. Klipfel’s primary motivation to teach is to ease the challenges of growing up and getting an education. He believes students thirst for caring mentors to drive them towards their potential. Klipfel thanks his mentors for his professional accomplishments and welcomes the opportunity to pay that favor forward—to students and colleagues.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Teaching and working with young people creates a natural high. The challenge of inspiring students and athletes to stretch beyond their comfort zones, bravely try something new and risk failure or bounce back after setbacks is simultaneously exhausting and rewarding. Each decade the challenge of teaching has changed. Kids today have more distractions–especially via their phones, more global competition, and higher expectations. They need us more than ever. I’ve been helped by brave, talented, and inspiring colleagues and mentors–all great fellow educators. And, I believe the desire to learn, grow, and improve has helped me adapt and continue to enjoy serving young people.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a teacher, feedback has been critical to my professional growth. Each year I learn much from student evaluations, books on recent research, and discussions with and observations with others. I am inspired by the Japanese concept of kaizen or the constant and focused dedication to improvement. I am especially grateful to three inspiring women at Saugus High School. Years of working with Linda Culotta as a co-department chair, Krista Botton as a co-swim coach, and Momoko Russell on an academic team have helped me grow to my potential as a servant to young people.

Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
I am so grateful and fortunate to work at and serve Saugus High School. It is a hidden gem in LA County, and the staff there is second to none. It is the highest honor of my professional life to work with that team of professional educators and public servants. To potential new teachers, I’d say, “Make sure you are ready to give your life over to others. It will be more difficult and rewarding than you can imagine. You will struggle every day to serve students and their families, but your contributions to the lives of the young will be priceless to them and rewarding to you.”

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Image Credits:

Jennifer Klipfel

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