As the students enter Mr. Lively’s AP Euro class at LCHS, 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.
Play like a champion challenges the student to expect more from themselves there-by 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.
Bill Lively is a third year teacher from Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, California. At UCLA he double majored in history and religion and received a master’s degree in historical research from Oxford University in England. 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 are from.
Great teachers inspire their students because someone initially inspired them. Mr. Lively was influenced by his high school English teacher, Randy Oudega. “He brought energy, passion, and excitement to the classroom,” Bill explained. “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.”
Currently assistant principal, Jim Cartnal has been mentoring Mr. Lively. Mr. Cartnal has recently left 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 blue prints of how to do that,” Bill said.
Mr. 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, not for a means to an end but for a means in of itself. Not only does he impart knowledge he fills his students with hope and showers them with a thousand reasons to embrace life.
Bill 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.”
Everyone screams about test and AP scores but Bill gets it; he realizes that the future character of his students is omnipotent. When you get that you’ll get Mr. Lively.
I asked senior, Alyssa Stolmack for comments about Mr. Lively as the faculty advisor to the Associate Student Body, (ASB). She paused and commented, “I need to find the right words. He deserves it!” She continued, “He challenges and encourages us to be our best; he is always honest.”
“So Bill, what’s in the future,” I asked. He was quick to respond, “This is my dream job; La Canada is my family; these are my kids and I love them.”
I had a penchant to find out why students are enamored by him. Once it clicked, I’d put it in a bottle and sell it. I asked Alyssa, “What’s the Zen of Mr. Lively?” She exclaimed, “He has a weird intangible effect on us; we’re better people because of him.”
I needed a bit more than “Weird and Intangible” so I dug deeper and found the answer to my inquiry in an old journal; It’s a quote by writer, Steve Maraboli. “When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves.” That’s playing like a champion!