How Klipfel Earned Teacher Of The Year

Danyale Schlender, Staff Writer

Saugus High School history teacher and swim coach Mr. Jim Klipfel was chosen a second time to be honored by the Hart Governing Board, and for the first time as the California Teacher of the Year, along with five other teachers picked by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Klipfel was nominated by his peers and coworkers to be spotlighted to the entire state.

Principal Ferry stated, “He gets students to challenge themselves and go beyond where they think they are capable of going and does so in a very motivating fashion. He’s just an incredible teacher but that doesn’t define who he is. He’s a leader and he’s a mentor to everyone on this campus, he pushes every single person to try a little bit harder and he’s willing to do it every step of the way with you.”

Though honored by the title, Klipfel stated in an interview with the  Los Angeles Daily News, “My fellow educators are heroic and inspiring professionals, and they deserve the broad recognition that comes with this honor. I am especially grateful to my countless mentors, heroes, and supporters. They are the shoulders that I now stand upon.”

Klipfel is pleased to be honored for the sake of the school and stated that, “anytime one of us is honored, it just highlights the talents, the love and dedication of the staff.” It is admirable how the same teacher has been picked twice for this honor and manages to deflect his accomplishments to his fellow coworkers and establishment.

He continues to elaborate on why he’s honored but is hesitant to accept the credit in its entirety saying he, “serves [the students] directly” and Centurion students did not personally choose him to be praised.  

However, after interviews with present and former students, it is agreed that most, if not all of Klipfel’s students would have, “personally handed him that award anyday,” echoed by Benjamin Bartel, a junior at Saugus. Bartel is a member of the chess club under the advisory of Klipfel and a student in his AP United States History (APUSH) class. Bartel continued, “even though I didn’t choose him per say, had I have had that option I would have.”

Klipfel is involved in a variety of areas on campus, teaching APUSH, advising the chess club and Habitat for Humanity, and coaching the Saugus swim team. Klipfel’s influence as well as his  teaching and coaching style is consistent throughout all areas he is involved in: 

“Klipfel is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He takes the time especially in swim class to [tell] you life advice and he provides readings that will encourage you to do your best,” said  Kasen Bomar, junior at Saugus who has been on the swim team since his freshman year and is now in his APUSH class.

Linsey Towles, a senior at Saugus High, met Klipfel the summer before her freshman year as her soon-to-be swim coach and has been on the swim team since. She expressed, “I believe he deserves the award because he embodies not only what makes a great teacher, but what makes a good person as well. He takes what we learn in the classroom or in the pool and applies it to our lives outside of it, and that ability, in my opinion, is what makes him a great teacher.”

A large part of Klipfel’s teaching philosophy involves opening students up to a myriad of topics and ideas, often providing students with lessons through reading and the discussion of different books. Klipfel continued to say, “It’s important to encourage [students] to read about the human condition, how to influence people, the human growth process, mental health and effective use of time. It is really good to have teachers, role models, coaches, et-cetera to be avid readers and to inspire students to read.”

Cassandra Eckleman, 2020 Saugus High graduate met Mr. Klipfel  her freshman year of high school when she joined the fall aquatic fitness class and has known him since, which is about five years. She states, “One of my favorite books that Klipfel had us read was ‘The New Toughness Training For Sports,’ which we read my senior year of swim, and I loved it so much that I got my dad a copy for Christmas so we could talk about it together.” 

She continues to explain, “It is about how to accept failure and setbacks with grace, and how to grow from them and take them as the lessons they are so you can come out the other side a better athlete, student, [and] person. Your mentality has such a critical impact on your life, so why wouldn’t you want to learn how to leverage it to your advantage?”

This year, Klipfel broadcasted the “The Last Lecture” to his APUSH class, an autobiography of Randy Pausch written as he died of pancreatic cancer. The book recounts his life journeys and lessons, while simultaneously trying to express to his young children who their dad really was.

“When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care,” wrote Randy Pausch and according to his students, Klipfel encommpasses this everyday as he advocates for his students to work harder and improve not only as students but as people.

On top of the curriculum, Klipfel teaches his students to “find [their] rabbit”, encouraging students to find what motivates them to chase their dreams, and embeds the idea of being “brave not perfect.” 

This phrase even relates back to why he started teaching: “Growing up and getting an education is hard. […] Teachers, coaches, and mentors need to really provide a safe, secure place but also need to push you. They need to be there to tell you to be brave enough to ask someone out or to interview someone or take a tough class.”

 He continued, stating, “And then when you get your heart broken or you get a bad grade they need to be there to say it’s OK. You’re still an amazing person and you’re gonna make it. The idea that I could provide that role became very very enticing to me.”

Bartel stated that Klipfel’s attitude and outlook on life has made him,“try to emulate his behavior because he leads by example for everyone on this campus. He does so by being a very selfless and committed individual.”

The recognition of the award has been shifted to highlight the dedication of Saugus staff and the Saugus community, largely due to the way Klipfel has come to represent the school. 

“The whole time [Klipfel has been honored] he’s kept this one hundred percent focused on the students and staff of Saugus High School and the incredible community that we have here,” reported Principal Ferry. 

Saugus’ “incredible” community  is mutually agreed upon by teachers, staff and students. Klipfel even contributed, “ [Saugus] is such a special place. I feel sorry for people who have only worked here because they don’t realize what a great school, student body, staff and community [we have].”

Klipfel even extends the credit of Saugus being a fun school to teach at to the parents. Revealing that, “the parents of Saugus are involved but not over involved. They protect them but not over protect them.” Another reason why Saugus is so notable is, “ Saugus seems to have that perfect mix where parents care and are involved but are okay letting their students’ get a scraped knee.”

An additional characteristic that makes Saugus unique is that, “we are a very veteran staff and many of our staff members have been here for ten, fifteen plus years. They are very impressive on their focus on academics and content but also very loving people both with each other and their departments and the students.”

Klipfel concluded that, “overall I don’t think there’s a staff in this district that can stand with us as far as [the love and compassion goes].” He even goes on to say, “Saugus is the hidden gem of the district.”

Klipfel has been described by his peers and students as passionate, caring, genuine, rare, and one in a million. However Klipfel is merely representative of Saugus High, because he has touched so many at Saugus, he has become Saugus.  Jim Klipfel is the heart of Saugus High.