Dear Dr. Louis,
I just wanted to say thank you for continuing Jane’s vision, message, and programs.
In 1991, I was a drama major and former actor returning to my home in San Diego after two and a half years pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles (the highlight of which was my one line on General Hospital). Before leaving for L.A., however, I had obtained my teaching credential at San Diego State University and upon my return began looking for work as a drama teacher. But in 1991, teaching jobs were scarce and so I was working as a substitute teacher in my hometown of Santee when I first stepped onto the West Hills High School campus. That first day, I could tell how different that school was from all of the other schools where I’d worked and I walked into the principal’s office at the end of the day and said, “I just want you to know I’m home. This is where I want to be.” I’m sure he thought I was crazy, and this was BEFORE I met Jane.
The school was still being built and because I was young and single, I could wait for West Hills to catch up to me. I took every sub and temporary assignment at West Hills I could take. Eventually I got to know the staff, filled my sub “dance card” with requests from the English department (including Jane), and even turned down other job offers in order to be available to West Hills. I was even there the day they broke ground on their brand new theater, and I dreamed of being the West Hills drama teacher. But as I said, I was still young and inexperienced, and they hired a woman with much more experience than I had. So instead, they hired me in the English department and that’s when Jane became my department chairperson. And leader. And mentor. And friend.
What I tell everyone, and what I’m writing to tell you now, is that Jane took that young, inexperienced, scattered former drama major and actor, and (I’m not exaggerating here) turned him into a teacher. She molded me and shaped me. I would not be where I am today without her guidance and training.
I just started my 23rd year at West Hills and have enjoyed every minute of it. Though there have been bumpy times, even when Jane was there, as she was a brilliant, but complex woman, I am truly grateful that she was there in my life and, cliche that it is, I can say that she made me who I am today.
So I wanted to say thank you for continuing her work. She changed the face of education and helped teachers around the country and around the world. I am STILL learning from her because I remember her going around the nation to do her workshops and I am starting (at the tender age of 52) to pursue the same thing now, to spread my own vision and message about how teachers deserve peace and simplicity in their lives and their classrooms in these crazy education times. The workshops are based on my book called The Zen Teacher: Creating Focus, Simplicity, and Tranquility in the Classroom. I’m just starting out but, as usual, my experience with Jane is informing this new segment of my career yet again.
You probably know this, but for Jane, loyalty was everything. So the fact that she entrusted her vision and program to you was her highest praise.
Thanks again. Take care. Thanks for listening.
West Hills High School