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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: ‘Learning is a serious business,’ says new LCHS administrator

The little South Korean girl had an unusual name: Kang-Pil. It meant “help like the river does.” Her name would define the woman she was destined to become.

At 4, Kang-Pil perused a book depicting the flags of nations. She asked her father which of all the countries was best. “The United States,” he answered. Kang-Pil decided that she would one day go to America to determine if what he said was true.

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Today you might know Kang-Pil as Dr. Kip Glazer, assistant principal of curriculum and instruction at La Cañada High School. Last Sunday, for the better part of the morning, she and I discussed philosophy, education, literature, writing, patriotism and books. Her macro-perspectives are not limited to education nor the specialty of her doctorate, learning technology. Glazer has an encompassing, engaging and intuitive understanding of what philosopher Joseph Campbell called the “Literature of the Spirit,” defined as those eternal values that center our mind and give us wisdom. It was refreshing to speak with an individual with such pedagogy and realize that she would be the steward of our children.

Glazer explained that “Pollyanna” by Eleanor H. Porter was the first book she read about America. The little orphan child, Pollyanna would influence 8-year-old Kang-Pil and give her a distinct philosophy that would define the future Dr. Glazer. It’s a pure perspective of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. Pollyanna’s straightforward demeanor of positiveness changed her community in rural Vermont.

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“That’s the hero I want to be. Not every hero is Captain America,” Glazer said.

As an English teacher, an instructional technology coach and a dean of students, Glazer brings depth to LCHS but also a distinct teaching philosophy, which evolved from the complexity of leaving one world and attempting to assimilate into another.

“Because of the difficulty of interacting with the language, I became a better teacher,” she said. “Things were not easy for me and were often humbling.”

She remembered struggling with simple words such as “vocabulary” and “vegetable.” She would ask others to record the sounds and over and over she would listen until those words became muscle memory.

“I became compassionate. Learning is a serious business,” she told me.

I can appreciate her holistic nature. Beyond her competence as a teacher, administrator, learning theorist and philosopher, she is a proud mother of two boys. Gabriel, her oldest, is a recent graduate of West Point and now a 2nd lieutenant in the Signal Corps. Spencer is currently a sophomore at West Point. The difficulty of gaining admittance to a service academy is no joke, and since both boys accomplished this, it impressed me.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“Model hard work, honesty and respect them enough to listen,” she replied.

At LCHS she hopes to instill the art of teaching and promote an environment that enables teachers to become the best version of themselves.

“I want teachers to feel what made them become teachers in the first place. Bring spirit back to teaching,” she said.

Glazer believes the narrative that gets the attention is sensationalism. “I want to change that,” she told me. “I want the community to hear all of the amazing things happening at La Cañada High School.”

Glazer models a Native American philosophy: always give others their dignity. She respects her students. “It doesn’t take intelligence to be kind,” she said.

She honors a country and its flag that provides “compulsory education so one could have a better life.” She takes her citizenship seriously, and when she signed on, she agreed to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.

After our conversation, she hurried to back LCHS. Even for a Sunday, there was much to do. I thought of her Korean name Kang-Pil and its translation, “help like a river does.”

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