Focus on an Educator

By Geyer, Pat | Social Studies Review, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Focus on an Educator


Geyer, Pat, Social Studies Review


Looking out from my window on the train, I mused about the endless rows of houses. It was like a picture of history - newer subdivisions with large, ranch-style homes, older subdivisions of small, two bedroom homes with one-car garages, and finally some Victorians near the LA station. My gaze turned to the papers on my lap and the task at hand. How to write an article to make sense of another type of history - the history of a friend's career, which was so outstanding in so many different ways? Should it be his work in curriculum with the publication of the California Concepts? Should it be his dedication to CCSS over the span of some 30 years? Should it be his service to his church? His union organization? His family and family history? His love and study of music? What was the theme, which tied this all together?

He grew up in Van Nuys, California and graduated from Van Nuys High School. He was president of the Philharmonic Club - kids listening to classical music during lunch one day a week. He was active in the youth fellowship and Hi-Y club of his church. But his most honorific accomplishment was being chosen one of twelve Ephebians out of his graduating class of 450. (Ephebian is Greek for "young citizen"-a person of civic virtue-and the Ephebian Society was a tradition in the Los Angeles City high schools.) The challenge given to Ephebians was to "leave this city a greater, better, and more beautiful place than you found it." After high school, he moved out of Van Nuys-and out of the city of Los Angeles-but he never forgot the Ephebian challenge.

He attended Whittier College from 1950-1955. He had always wanted to teach history and he enrolled as a social studies major. During the first year, however, he was enthralled by the courses of Dr. William Dale, a truly great teacher in the Whittier College Music Department. He decided to major in music and teach music history and theory at the college level. But he did elect to stay a fifth year and earn a General Secondary Teaching Credential. His other and more considerable accomplishment while at Whittier was to meet and marry his wife, Betty.

Graduating from college, he was confronted by the draft for the Korean War. Registering as a conscientious objector, he was able to find two public service positions in the Los Angeles area. So from 1955-56 he taught at the Spanish-American Institute in Gardena, and from 1956-57 he was the, Director of Teenage Programs at Toberman Settlement House in San Pedro. Both of these positions gave him experience working with minorities and troubled teens.

After fulfilling his civilian service, he moved his family back to Whittier and accepted a job teaching social science at nearby Norwalk High School. During his first years of teaching, he did earn a Master of Arts in music at Long Beach State University. Finishing the degree in 1961, he applied for positions in the music departments in community colleges throughout California, but found that requirements had changed and PhD degrees were now required for such positions. He decided to return to his first calling and devoted himself to his social studies teaching, although he did teach music appreciation part-time at the local community college and has continued to compose at various times during his life. He and Betty have been subscribers to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for over 30 years.

During the 36 years of his career at Norwalk High School he taught all of the history/social science courses in addition to Driver Training, Leadership, Fine Arts, Music and Art Appreciation, and Girls Chorus. During most of those years he served as chair of the Norwalk H.S. Social Science Department. He also served as High School Faculty Club president for two years, as the school's accreditation committee chair or coordinator through six WASC accreditations, as advisor to the student government for eight years, as a mentor teacher for six years and as a member or chair of the Norwalk-La Mirada School District's various curriculum committees from 1972 until retirement in 1991. …

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