Saugus High School teacher and California State Teacher of the Year representative for 2021, Jim Klipfel, was honored alongside 99 other teachers Monday during a ceremony held at the White House.
Both President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden made speeches in front of the gathered crowd — a group consisting of both the 2020 and 2021 recipients of their respective states’ Teacher of the Year award in their respective year — congratulating the teachers on their work, especially during the pandemic.
“You’re here because you’re among the finest group of educators in the country,” said the first lady. She later added: “In a crowd of some of the most innovative, talented, compassionate and effective educators in our country, you all stood out.”
“I’m sure for each of you, there are people you can look back on and they changed your life,” the president said. “Most of all, what you do, is you give us confidence, you instill confidence.”
Biden went on to tell a story about how a teacher changed his life for the better, giving him the confidence he needed to overcome his stutter.
“As Jill always says, teaching is not what you do, it’s who you are,” said the president.
Klipfel was selected last year as the Teacher of the Year candidate for the William S. Hart Union High School District, going on to represent the district at the county level. The social studies teacher and swim coach at Saugus High School went on to win at the county level and was ultimately named California’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.
Klipfel was honored for, in addition to his approach in the classroom, for being “one of the first arriving on the scene” to the Saugus High School shooting in 2019 — an event that took the lives of two students and the gunman — and offering comfort to students in the aftermath.
“This award is the honor of a lifetime, and something I received during an extremely challenging period of my life,” Klipfel said in a statement after he was chosen to be the state nominee. “I am fortunate to have a job that I love. And I am extremely grateful to have the support of my wonderful community, inspiring colleagues and amazing students for making this happen. This was really a school and staff of the year honor, not just about me.”