Life Of A Brave: For Alumni Teachers, Bosco Is A Home Away From Home
by William Reynolds and Ed Crowe
In the wake of Homecoming Week, alumni faculty reflect on the influence St. John Bosco High School had on their own academic career. With many alumni returning to teach at Bosco, the brotherhood continues to grow stronger within the Brave community.
Since St. John Bosco was established in 1940, the school has been constructed around four core values. These include the ideals of St. John Bosco being a home, school, church and playground. Homecoming made the students feel the pillar of home more than ever with all of the fun activities. This is especially true for the alumni faculty, as Bosco is much more than just a job.
Many great alumni teachers, such as Mr. Walter Wippler ’83, Mr. Joe Griffin ’75 and Mr. Derrick Fernando ’00, have found their way back to Bosco. All these teachers have truly been a major part of the Bosco community over the years as students, athletes, coaches and teachers. These experiences that they have attained from all these years is now shared to the community, which brings a sense of unity. Although the reasoning for returning differs amongst teachers, the concept of the second home is viable in each of their stories.
Mr. Wippler ’83 has been in the Bosco community for over 30 years. He is currently the head of the Engineering pathway as well as a physics instructor. Outside the classroom, he is the faculty moderator for Bosco’s Robotics Team 4123.
“I worked part-time for the youth program here at Bosco when I was in college and I really enjoyed teaching. And so Jim Cross, one of the English teachers at the time, and Brother Nold, one of the Salesians during this time, said, ‘Hey we have an opening in the science department.’ So I applied and both Brother Nold and Jim Cross were very happy that I took on this position,” said Mr. Wippler.
However, there is still a reasoning behind why Mr. Wippler came back to his home at Bosco specifically and why he has stayed for all these years.
“I came back because of the welcomeness of the Bosco home and I thought to myself, if I’m going to work anywhere I would want it to be here,” said Mr. Wippler.
As a student, he immediately picked soccer, which he enjoyed and played for a long time. Ultimately, he found his love for music, which prompted him to join the marching band. In his years in the marching band, they went on to have over 50 members. One of his favorite memories was being apart of the band when Bosco defeated the “Team in Red.” As a student, Bosco truly was a second home for Mr. Wippler.
“ I see the brotherhood of Bosco is the students that I have taught,” Mr. Wippler said. “For example, not too long ago, a student of mine graduated in 2017, who was in the first Engineering [Pathway] cohort, came back to visit to catch up on what has been going on in this student’s life, letting me know that he is finishing up a double master’s in Business and Systems Engineering”.
Mr. Griffin of the class of ’75 is another one of the profound alumni teachers Bosco has had. Mr. Griffin has been part of the Salesian family for over 40 years. As of now, Mr. Griffin is a religion teacher as well as the freshmen football offensive line coach. When it comes to a classroom or on the field, Mr. Griffin is a teacher of experience.
Much like Mr. Wippler, Mr. Griffin has a backstory as to why he became a teacher.
“If you would have told me I was going to be a teacher when I was here, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. But I started to think about becoming a teacher when I started taking school seriously in my senior year of college,” said Mr. Griffin. “After ten years of teaching, I came back because there was a greater opportunity at Bosco for me as a teacher to be here and this is going to be my 33rd year here, coming in with Mr. [Bob] Linares and Mr. [Ernie] Antonelli.”
The brotherhood that has impacted all of us has impacted Mr. Griffin the most.
Many students have received great advice from Mr. Griffin given his many years of experience. One of his most notable quotes: “To work like a champion, not play like a champion.”
Mr. Griffin also believes that students should not wait until the end of their academic career to take their studies seriously. It is teachers like Mr. Griffin that contain a lot of wisdom that can be shared to newer generations. This is a key reason why having alumni teachers is crucial for the Bosco community.
Mr. Fernando of the class of ’00 also has been an integral part of the community. Although Mr. Fernando has not been teaching as long as Mr. Wippler and Mr. Griffin, he still attains the wisdom that is beneficial for many students of Bosco. Today, Mr. Fernando teaches American Literature for juniors and British Literature for seniors.
Like his alumni colleagues, there is a story as to why he decided to come home to Bosco.
“The short answer is I was just good at it. But a couple of my professors from LMU made mention of a graduate degree and a teaching fellowship that would help pay for it. And while my grandmother and aunt were both teachers, I never considered being a teacher until that point in time,” said Mr. Fernando.
Bosco also includes great younger alumni teachers that are just as important to the home of Bosco as the more veteran ones. By having young and old alumni teachers, the community is brought closer together in the younger and older generations.
Some other notable alumni teachers include Mr. Garcia-Esparza ’16, Mr. Nold ’08 and Mr. Solarza ’13. Even though these teachers have not been around as long as Mr. Wippler, Mr. Griffin and Mr. Fernando, they still have a tremendous impact with the younger students and making them good young men.
Mr. Garcia-Esparza, has had an impact on the classroom and on the court since he graduated in ’16. When he was a student, he was the head football and basketball manager. Along with this, he was a student council member, student ambassador and played rugby.
“I started looking into this path when I started coaching football and basketball at St. Raymond Catholic. I was very much into sports, the sports world and sports careers,” said Mr. Garcia-Esparza. “I worked for the Clippers and the Rams, but when I took that experience, I saw the little things. Then I got the call here that we needed somebody to fill in the role of a Spanish teacher and felt that I was well prepared for our Spanish courses. Great teachers like Mrs. Rayas and Mrs. Hunt helped me get through my college classes, and I was more than happy to answer the call back home.”
Another young alumni teacher is Mr. Nold ’08. Although he did not participate in as many extracurriculars as Mr. Garcia-Esparza, he found himself in the film and media world. In college, he took a film and media class and found his love in the visual arts. Later in college, he found calling in animation and soon after decided he would like to share his skills to other aspiring animators.
These skills he has attained were all self-taught, which shows his true passion behind the visual arts. As of now, Mr. Nold teaches Animation one, two, and three. Mr. Nold also has a major role in the production Brave Vision.
Mr. Solorza ’13 is another example of a great young alumni teacher. He was in cross country as well as track in his time as a student. He also published a few articles for the Brave News. Mr. Solorza is now in his second year teaching Environmental Science, AP Environmental Science and Astronomy.
“I started coaching back in 2017 and realized how much I enjoyed it. Andd I love being around the guys, which ultimately led me into teaching, and fortunately I got to teach what I learned in college, which was pretty cool, and now be with the guys on and off the field,” said Mr. Solorza.
From all these teachers, older and younger generations, there is one clear idea about their so-called second home, which is the idea that the Salesian family spirit will never die. It is vital that more alumni come back to Bosco because their experiences are too valuable to not be shared with future generations of Braves.