Honoring the Legacy of Long-time School Employees

When I first started working at Hoover High School in September of 1989, the school was so overcrowded that there wasn’t a classroom available for me so I became a traveling teacher:  four rooms in five periods.   That meant I had to carry chalk, erasers, paper, pens, staplers, paper clips, and more in my bulging briefcase.

It wasn’t until my second year that I had my own room, but there was a catch.   It was a temporary room, a portable bungalow out near the softball field.  While it was isolated next to three other portables, it had its own air conditioning unit that I controlled, unlike the permanent buildings where the thermostat was managed by the district office.

A couple of years later when high schools converted to four-year institutions, a new building was erected to accommodate the additional ninth graders.  Then principal Don Duncan invited teachers to choose their own classrooms while construction was underway.

I selected a room away from a stairwell to minimize outside noise.  I also wanted my windows to have a view so I chose one that faced south overlooking Glendale’s burgeoning skyline to my left and the Hollywood Hills to my right.

And I have remained there ever since.

This school year marks my 30th as a teacher.  It also happens to be the 90th year that Hoover has been around.  That means that I have taught at Hoover for one-third of its entire existence.   During my tenure, I have worked for six principals and five superintendents.

Reaching such a milestone has made me reflect on many of my former co-workers who are no longer at Hoover.

Too often these people just disappear whether through retirement or moving on without announcement or acknowledgment of their service to the school.  There is no mechanism in place for their legacies to be memorialized.

Past superintendents in Glendale have their photos mounted at the district headquarters.  No matter that the average tenure has been eight years, with one serving only a year, these men remain the face of the district despite working at other districts for the majority of their careers.

However, for those teachers, secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria workers who have devoted their lifetime to GUSD—20, 30, 40 years’ worth—their work is not preserved.  Nowhere are their photos or names displayed.   That is like having a memorial dedicated to the armed services with only the names of the generals on it.

These people have more of a connection to students than do superintendents.    Preparing food, cleaning campuses, greeting visitors, and teaching students—these are the most meaningful jobs at a school.   If it weren’t for these people, there wouldn’t be a place of learning.

Just last month a custodian who worked 39 years, Glen Esquivel, retired. Where is his photo?  His name?

As soon as he left, the history of his stint in GUSD disappeared. It’s as if he never worked in Glendale schools.

Thirty-nine years.  Vanished.

Devote your entire working life to a company and never be remembered.  That’s a terrible lesson to teach young people.

Never mind the clichéd certificate of recognition at a school board meeting.  As the district prepares to move to a new administration building, serious consideration should be given to erect a Hall of Fame with the photos, names and years of service of all employees who have worked for GUSD at least 25 years.

It’s the right thing to do.


Former Student, Current Filmmaker

As I enter my 30th year of teaching, I reflect frequently about the thousands of students who I have been privileged to work with over the years.

More often than not, a teacher rarely hears back from students once they have grown up and established themselves in careers.

It is always a pleasant surprise, however, when I do.

“Mr. Crosby!” came from a grown man among the crowd of teachers filing into the auditorium for a meeting at the start of the school year.

I tend to recall faces not names so when I realized it was a former student, I admitted to him that I recognized him but couldn’t place the name.

Arin Gregorian (class of 1996) was in my English class over 20 years ago, and for the past 14 years he has taught math in Glendale.  What a delight that he went into the teaching profession.

Then, about two weeks ago, I received an email from Sev Ohanian (class of 2005) who worked on the school newspaper for three years, serving as editor-in-chief in his senior year.  In my 26 years working on the school newspaper, Sev was one of only four male EICs.

His tireless determination to do a quality job was evident even back then.

Under his leadership, the paper earned First Place awards for photo and graphics from the National Scholastic Press Association.

We first reconnected back in 2013 when I found out that he was a producer on the critically acclaimed film “Fruitvale Station.”

He told me that his latest film, “Searching,” which he produced and co-wrote with director Aneesh Chaganty, was about to open in theatres across the country, a movie I was already interested in seeing.  Knowing that Sev was one of the creative minds behind it made me even more excited about it.

The film stars another Hoover graduate, John Cho (class of 1990), as a father searching online for his missing daughter.  It is a compelling story told from beginning to end on computer screens, immersing the viewer in the contemporary social media world; quite an intense and emotional experience.

“Searching” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January earning the 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and the NEXT Audience Award, with Sev being honored with the Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Narrative Producer Award.

Within hours after the showing, Sev had an exhilarating all-nighter entertaining offers from several companies vying to purchase the distribution rights.  Sony Pictures made the deal for $5 million.

In only two weeks, the film is near the top of box office receipts, and has earned the prestigious Certified Fresh rating of 91 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website, 93 percent from top film critics.

I invited Sev to speak at a schoolwide assembly at his alma mater.  With his parents in attendance, it was a powerful moment to hear him motivate the students with his success story.

Sev already is in the middle of several other projects so it was kind of him to visit his old school (and teacher).  He kept his word in the final piece he wrote for the school paper:  “I will always come back to visit.”

I am sure there are other former students leading rewarding lives that I don’t know about. That is part of the job, though.

A teacher works and works and works and is often not sure how much of the lessons, the lectures, and the laughs stays with the students.

I am fortunate to know what happened to a few of them, and that motivates me to continue working hard with each year’s new crop of kids.  I can’t wait to find out what they will end up doing in the future.