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West Ranch instructor honored as Hart district’s ‘teacher of the year’

Posted: September 27, 2013 3:06 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2013 3:06 p.m.
West Ranch teacher Ron Ippolito instructs his social studies class on a project to interview a government employee. Signal photo by Dan Watson West Ranch teacher Ron Ippolito instructs his social studies class on a project to interview a government employee. Signal photo by Dan Watson
West Ranch teacher Ron Ippolito instructs his social studies class on a project to interview a government employee. Signal photo by Dan Watson

From the time he was a child, Ron Ippolito knew he wanted to be a teacher.

“When I was in first grade, I wanted to be a first-grade teacher. When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to be a seventh-grade teacher,” he said in an interview this month. “Even when I got to college, I wanted to be a professor.”

That love of teaching took Ippolito to the William S. Hart Union High School District, where he has worked for almost two decades.

In those years, he has garnered several awards and recognitions for his teaching.

Earlier this month the West Ranch High School social studies teacher took home another honor as he was officially named the 2013 teacher of the year for the district.

“His classroom is a sacred place, and he is optimistic about the future of public education,” reads a district report describing Ippolito. “His 17 years of experience have not dimmed his infectious enthusiasm for teaching; they have instead sharpened his vision for what can be and for what his students can become.”

Local roots
Ippolito has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley virtually his entire life, only going away for college.

He is himself a product of the Hart district, attending Canyon High School.

It was there that he met his wife, Heather.

“Our first date was actually a homecoming game,” he said.

Canyon also became a place of employment after he graduated from college. He taught there from 1997 to 2002.
He was also named a teacher of the year while at Canyon.

He later moved to Rio Norte Junior High, where he taught until 2011.

While there he won another teacher of the year award.

A few years ago he decided to go back to teaching high school at West Ranch.

You can guess what happened next.

Ippolito was named the district’s teacher of the year and honored at a meeting of the Hart district board earlier this month.

“I guess third time’s the charm,” he said, laughing.

Ippolito’s classroom at West Ranch is an eclectic one, the kind of space where hard-bound books share shelves with an Abraham Lincoln bobblehead figurine.

Large photo collages of family members line the walls near his computers, as do notes of appreciation from his students.

One display behind his desk are some of the awards he has won throughout the years, including a Canyon High School theater award he said he received for his portrayal of Reb Tevye in a production of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The theater background is helpful, Ippolito said, because being a teacher is similar to being an actor.

“There’s a little bit of Socrates and a little bit of P.T. Barnum in each lesson,” he said. “You balance the academic portion of it with presenting it in a way that’s accessible and engaging.”

Ippolito said he works hard to forge personal relationships with his students.

But part of the challenge, Ippolito admits, can be keeping students engaged and excited about class.

That’s especially true now, since his government and economics class at West Ranch is made up entirely of seniors, some of whom may already be counting down the days left in high school.

“Teaching is a little bit of a sales pitch; you have to sometimes convince them why they should care about what you have to say,” he said. “And I like to accept that challenge.”

Teaching history presents particular challenges, he said; some might think things that happened hundreds of years ago no longer apply today.

“I try to as much as possible bring in current events that affect their lives,” he said.

That could include using a possible boycott of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, to demonstrate economic principles, or explaining how the language of the Constitution can help students know their rights when they are pulled over by a police officer.

“You have to find ways to connect the old and the new,” he said.

Though he is happy with his job at West Ranch, Ippolito said he’s not sure exactly what the future has in store for him.

But for now he’s focused on his job and his family, including his daughter, Libi, who is currently a first-grader at Leona Cox Community School.

“Right now she always talks about wanting me to be her teacher,” he said with a wide grin. “But we’ll see if she still feels that way when she’s 13.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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