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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Finding the Zen of Mr. Lively

October 18, 2013|By Joe Puglia

As the students enter Bill Lively's AP Euro class at La Cañada High School, they take a moment to rub a sign hanging on the wall in room 305. “Play like a Champion Today,” it says. I wanted to understand the essence of a teacher who would have such a mantra.

Being asked to play like a champion challenges the students to expect more from themselves, thereby reaching higher levels of learning and character. It's instilling the quest for excellence, a virtue that transcends all endeavors. Greatness doesn't come from those content on just being, but from the conscious endeavor of reaching.

Lively is a third-year teacher from Fullerton. At UCLA he double-majored in history and religion and received a master's degree in historical research from Oxford University. His credentials and intellect are impressive. However, who he is as a teacher and as an individual is far more critical than where his degrees were earned.

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Great teachers inspire their students because someone initially inspired them. Lively was influenced by his high school English teacher, Randy Oudega. “He brought energy, passion and excitement to the classroom,” Lively said. “He ignited a spark within me and showed me the true potential of teaching. I wanted to be in a classroom telling stories and giving kids an overarching view of the world and of themselves.”

Jim Cartnal, LCHS' assistant principal, has been mentoring Lively. Cartnal was recently promoted from the classroom, leaving big shoes to fill in the history department.

“I want to be the best teacher for the kids and Mr. Cartnal gave me the blueprints of how to do that,” Lively said.

Lively's influence on his students is infinite. He touches their future by infusing his philosophies into their core. There's an extension of concentric circles emanating outward from his wisdom and passion. He believes in academic excellence and honors the intellect. He fills his students with hope and showers them with a thousand reasons to embrace life.

Lively was a Boy Scout. He earned the rank of Eagle and adheres to the moral standards demanded by that distinction. “Being an Eagle is becoming a new person, transforming to a higher set of ethical values,” he said. Those values earned as a young man evolved into a unique teaching philosophy. “My goal is to make every kid who walks into my class stronger, both intellectually and morally,” he said.

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