If you come by my 2nd floor classroom, you will see framed collages of every senior class that I have taught for the past 19 years decorating my walls. Students in caps and gowns, in elegant prom dresses and tuxedos, in old T-shirts and shorts covered by whipped cream after pie throwing contests. Now after 19 wonderful years teaching English for San Francisco Unified School District at Abraham Lincoln High School, I am saying goodbye to the Sunset, and finding my life more and more converging with this neighborhood called the Bayview.
In the fall of 2017, I will be joining this new independent middle school endeavor. Rise University Preparatory’s mission is to serve a thriving community of diverse students challenged to be their best-- to reason, create, serve and lead. As an independent Christian school, Rise Prep is committed to academic excellence, as well as educational equity, justice and reconciliation across racial and socioeconomic lines. As such, 80% of our seats are reserved for scholars of the Bayview or scholars who are low-income or first generation college-bound.
This past summer, we had the privilege of teaching twenty 5th to 7th graders over a two-week period. What a joy it was to see students programming sphero robots to dance, building homemade trebuchets to knock down paper cup castles, oohing and aahing at animated anemones at the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, and making Skittles come to life through stop motion animation.
Several months ago, two of my current Lincoln seniors, Hector and Reyhan came up to me and said, “Hey, Mr. Kim, we saw you with your kids outside your house as we were driving to school!” Hector and Reyhan, Bayview residents, make the daily commute to the Sunset because they are choosing out of the neighborhood for high school. My hope is that the Bayview will soon have more great middle and high schools to choose from so that students like Reyhan and Hector do not have to commute hours to get to a desirable school, and that community can grow and thrive in this neighborhood that we love.
Yes, I will be taking down all those framed pictures of Lincoln seniors at the end of this school year, and a new blank wall will face me in the summer of 2017 as I move my stuff to the Rise Prep school building. But to me, that blank wall is symbolic of hope--a wall waiting to be filled by the stories of our children--our children who grow up and thrive in this our Bayview community.