Inaugural RAHS (just AHS at the time) class alum, Mr. Mario Pilapil works at Dimmitt Middle School in Renton, WA as an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher with students who know little to no English.
“I originally wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, so that’s what I came in as a freshmen thinking,” said Pilapil. “And then that transitioned to ‘I want to be a chef’ midpoint of freshmen year, I don’t know how that happened.”
Pilapil’s career goal a second time in sophomore year, when he found what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He decided to educate others and help students enjoy learning.
“It was actually taking Mr. Savishinsky’s humanities class my sophomore year of high school. We did some pretty heavy project-based-learning, we did a lot of debates, we did a lot of research, things I didn’t really do back in middle school,” said Pilapil. “[Before that] I never really thought of learning as fun. So, essentially, that humanities class was what inspired me to follow the path of education.”
After he discovered that he wanted to teach, Pilapil narrowed down the type of teacher that he to be. His end goal was to teach in the humanities, ideally history.
“I majored in History and got my masters in teaching,” said Pilapil. “It’s all been that humanities, social studies, social justice focus that Mr. S brought into the class.”
In addition to teaching history and sharing his love of learning, he also wants to teach his students about the social justice issues that are important to them which was inspired by RAHS teacher Marcie Wombold and the Culture Club community.
“A lot of [the teaching at Culture Club] was leaning towards social justice,” said Pilapil. “What that is varies upon who you are and where you are, but it made me want to figure out more issues with the world and see what I can do to help, not only help but educate others because I feel like there’s a lot of ignorance.”
Social justice connects very closely with Pilapil’s career, as he must work hard to ensure that his student’s social needs are met before he begins the traditional teachings.
“I work with a lot of students who are immigrants to the country,” said Pilapil. “A lot of them new, some of them have been here for a few years, others have moved to the US when they were much smaller. So, I think really meeting their emotional and social needs is number one, because they get overwhelmed.”
Pilapil is extremely conscientious of fulfilling all of his students’ needs by recognizing that there are many difficulties they must overcome, then helping them conquer their obstacles.
“It’s a new country, it’s a new language, and having them in general education classes where they’re learning math and science in english is really tough for them,” said Pilapil. “So some of them do get overwhelmed, and some of them do get that anxiety. Really trying to get them comfortable and situated in our school and in the United States, in Seattle, or Renton is my first priority.”
The student’s comfort is Pilapil’s first concern because that is the cornerstone to all of the learning that will take place in his class.
“Once they feel safe, that’s when we can bring in the skills and the content and the learning. It’s tough when you get a classroom of students that don’t all speak the same language,” said Pilapil. “My classes speak Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Russian, all of these different languages and it’s really hard to provide them with content.”
Though Pilapil has refined his teaching skills over time, it was not his original intention to become an English Language Learner teacher.
“Originally, my goal was to become the world’s best History teacher. When you go into the real world, certain jobs are in more of a demand than others,” said Pilapil. “So, I majored in History, it’s what I wanted to teach.”
It became apparent to him, via his experiences student teaching, that he would have an extremely difficult time in the workplace if he were to only have a teaching endorsement for History.
“I got my first endorsement in history,” said Pilapil, “and when I was interviewing my classroom teacher he asked me ‘are you going to get another endorsement?’ I said ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to get ELL’ and he said “Good, because if you just have Social Studies you won’t get a job, Social Studies just isn’t in demand.’ So, I did ELL and it’s just good teaching.”
Getting his ELL endorsement helped Pilapil learn new teaching methods and craft his own way of helping students learn.
“I feel like every teacher needs to get an ELL endorsement, especially because of the communities that we teach in and just because it’s good teaching methods,” said Pilapil. “A lot of the teachers here [at RAHS] probably have that ELL endorsement.”