Published: November 2, 2016
Byron Flitsch has been telling stories all his life. Some are far-fetched tales of fiction and some are his own creatively reimagined takes on real-life experiences.
As a result, the Pacific Oaks College alumnus has won multiple creative writing awards and scholarships and has lived a life some would envy—penning travel articles for Forbes and doing freelance pieces on some of his favorite celebrities for MTV.
But Flitsch gained a different kind of public attention in the spring of 2016, winning a “Teacher of the Year” award in Pasadena, Calif., that he says represents the professional transformation he made as a result of his Pacific Oaks education.
“After a career in writing, it took a lot of soul searching for me to finally realize that I actually belonged in education,” says Flitsch, who earned a master’s degree in education from Pacific Oaks in 2015 and was immediately hired at Aveson Charter School, where he had student-taught during his degree program. “I knew I needed to find a place that was going to be nurturing, and I found that in Pacific Oaks. The ‘Teacher of the Year’ award just affirms that I made the right choice, and I’m so honored.”
Flitsch believes he landed his job so quickly after graduation in part because he learned things at Pacific Oaks that he could immediately implement in the classroom.
“Those practical hands-on lessons continue to be invaluable,” he says. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my education at Pacific Oaks.”
For example, Flitsch designed a seating configuration in his classroom to maximize student collaboration for homework one week, and then rehabbed his entire classroom at Aveson the next. He also learned to incorporate his personal passions—narrative writing, photography, blogging, and web design—into the lesson plans for his 4th and 5th graders.
The result has been life-changing.
“One of my students is dyslexic and hated writing. But after several months of focused work with him, he is sending me poems and personal essays written in his free time. There is nothing better than seeing a child’s eyes widen with understanding,” says Flitsch, who has also begun volunteering with a scholar mentorship program where he “adopts” two 7th grade students each month and takes them on cultural field trips in the area.
“One of my fears was that being a teacher meant I was giving up on my other passions,” he says. “But instead, this job has only highlighted and motived me to continue pressing on in my own personal dreams and endeavors.”
One of those dreams is writing a children’s book series, something is starting to work on with the help of some of the literary world’s most esteemed editors—his students.
“I can’t tell you how many kids have lectured me for promising I’d get them another story from my children’s book, and when I miss a deadline, they don’t let me forget it!” Flitsch says fondly. “Kids are the best cheerleaders and fan club. I wouldn’t trade my life today for the world.”