California State University, Long Beach
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Teaching Bug Bit While Serving

Published: November 14, 2016

Paul Flores soared through the Air Force as expeditiously as he did from CSULB to Millikan High School, landing the unexpected job.

Flores’ comes from Corning, a small town known for olives and cows, about nine hours north from Long Beach. After serving in the Air Force for seven years, he moved to Southern California to be closer to family.

After earning his undergraduate degree from University of Maryland, he attended CSULB to gain his teaching credential and, like any good solider, marched forward in full force. Flores went from fresh college graduate to the newest addition at Millikan High School all within a few months.

“Looking back, I think I got bitten by the teaching bug a little bit when I was in the military but I never honestly considered a career out of it,” Flores said.

Flores’ wife, Serena, is a substitute teacher whom he credits as his inspiration for choosing to teach.

“When I met my wife, she was going through the credential program and I think through her I started to see it as a possibility and less as a job, and more of a social role,” Flores said. “That resonated in me because I always knew I wanted to make a difference, which was a big reason why I went into the military.

“One night we were talking and she asked ‘If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?’” Flores added. “That night I sat down, did some research, and the next morning I started calling around and setting up interviews at schools.”

When Flores made the decision that he would get his credential, CSULB chair of the Department of History Tim Kierns answered the call.

“I called up different department heads and I didn’t know at the time that was pretty presumptuous. I didn’t know enough to know that you shouldn’t do that,” Flores said. “Tim talked about the relationship that Long Beach has with the wider district, the schools, and how much they connect and communicate and integrate everything in–with the idea of top-down focusing on these skills and content–coming from a military background where you have that sort of comradery, and that sort of alignment, it spoke to me.”

While attending CSULB, Flores credits two professors for his very own teaching mentality and classroom etiquette–Eileen Luhr and Gail Hamilton.

“Eileen is probably the only teacher that I found a little intimidating–in a good way. She knows her content and she has high expectations, and she communicates that to you,” Flores said about Luhr, an associate professor and advisor in the Department of History. “If you’re going to be a historian, there are certain things that you should be able to do and there are certain things that you should know–and I’ve translated that a little into my classroom. This idea is the of it being OK to hold someone to high expectations and that feedback doesn’t need to be negative.”

Paul Flores at Millikan High School
PHOTO BY ANGELA YIM
Paul Flores at Millikan High School

Luhr recalls Flores as an excellent student and had similarly high regards of the fresh graduate turned teacher.

“Paul had a genuine interest in the material, whether it was about late 19th century famines in India or the global nature of the Cold War,” Luhr said. “Before that, he stood out in his 300S interview in the way that he approached his observation hours. He had carefully researched schools that had excellent teaching and students from a diverse socioeconomic background. He’s also the only student who’s ever identified the military planes flying into the naval air station outside my window during an interview.”

On the education side, Flores credits Hamilton, a lecturer in history, for her extensive knowledge on students and how to approach teaching.

“She was a great teacher–she just made everything so applicable. It was less abstract knowledge like this is history, and more like this how you teach history, this is how students understand it, this is their understanding of it,” Flores said.

The lasting thoughts Flores has of CSULB are how the faculty was supportive, and contrasting the military, the support was in the form of positive reinforcement. But much like the military, it was the comradery of the district and the schools in the city of Long Beach that made it all worthwhile.

“Normally when you walk into someone’s classroom you know exactly what they’re teaching, I’m not quite there yet,” Flores said. “Most of my training at CSULB was for history. I had a lot of interest in the law, but I didn’t plan on being a teacher. I thought I was going to be a lawyer. When this job opened up, it was great because I had some background in psychology and I have an interest in law and I have my credentials in social sciences.”