by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at Kings River Life Magazine, we realize how important teachers are to the lives of our children and the future of our communities as they shape the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, most of the best teachers work long hours with little recognition or thanks. Our goal here is to take a moment to thank as many of these teachers as we can—the teachers who make a difference. Phillip Marquez is one of those teachers who exceed expectations.
Currently an English teacher at Reedley High School, Phillip Marquez teaches five senior classes of Chicano Literature and one ELD (English Language Development) class. During his six years with Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) he has also taught Math, Science, P.E., English, Social Sciences and History at Citrus Middle School and Dunlap Elementary, as well as other English classes at RHS. He is currently the freshman baseball coach at RHS, and has coached baseball for 30 years at several different schools mostly at the high school level. At times he has also coached football, wrestling and softball.
Phillip came into the profession of teaching later in life. Born in Texas, he spent some time in the Air Force. After his stint in the Armed Forces, he became a youth pastor/director for 20 years. “I pastored in Hayward California for seven years and I served with Youth for Christ for 13 years,” said Phillip.
After years of working with youth as a pastor and with YFC he felt led to get on campus in a full time position so he could be a greater help to students with their struggles in school and life. Through the urging of his wife Cathy, he returned to school and received his Bachelors degree from National University in Fresno. “I just believed I could be of more help being there fulltime rather than just once a week. If not for my wife’s persistent encouragement, I may not have gone back to school.”
He and Cathy moved to Clovis while working for YFC and they’ve remained there, with Phillip commuting to Reedley every day since beginning to work for KCUSD six years ago. “I love the drive and the beautiful surrounding areas. It is a breath-taking drive with all the scenery.”
His goal was to start out teaching elementary school then work his way back up to high school age. After working at Citrus Middle School and Dunlap, there was an opening at Reedley High and through the encouragement of Principal Rodney Cisneros and Assistant Superintendent of KCUSD John Campbell, Phillip accepted the position, reuniting him with his students from Dunlap, “which I was very excited to see again.”
Phillip has not only had an impact on his students, but also on his peers. “Mr. Marquez is a great man,” said principal Cisneros. “He has a heart for kids and a genuine concern for their success; both current and future. He taught for me at Citrus Middle School before coming out to RHS. He is a true asset to RHS.”
KCUSD’s Deputy Superintendent Ron Hudson concurs. “I have been impressed with Mr. Marquez’ character and willingness to do anything to help students. He brings valuable life experiences to his role as a teacher and coach. He adds a great deal of value to Kings Canyon Unified School District.”
A typical day for Phillip begins at 4:30 a.m. with personal devotional time. He arrives at school usually around 6:45 to prep his classroom for the day. “With baseball now in season, we practice until 6:00 p.m. and I usually get home around 7:00 p.m., eat dinner and begin grading papers or writing a lesson plan. Family time is usually between 9 and 11 p.m. before I go to bed.”
He has found his greatest challenge in teaching to be the adjustments teachers need to make to help out their students. “Learning different strategies and new practices is sometimes difficult especially when you get used to teaching a certain way. But at the same time, this can be very beneficial for both me and the students.
“I love teaching but I like the students a lot,” continued Phillip. “I believe that they are leaders now and for our future and in spite of some of their bad decisions, they are still great kids who need guidance and someone to believe in them and accept them where they are.”
His students also love him. “Mr. Marquez is an amazing teacher,” shared RHS student Kayla Aguilar. “I look forward to being in his class. He is very patient and explains well!”
Another of his students, Sebastian Gallegos, feels the same way. “He is creative in creating activities and has a great sense of humor. He gives us really interesting projects and also teaches respect and good morals. I extremely enjoy being in his class.”
Phillip remains in contact with some of his past students as well, who come over to visit him from Reedley College. “As for present students, I have been blessed with good students in all my classes.”
He also feels blessed by the people he works with. “Working with students is not as easy as it may seem so I need to talk to adults to keep me accountable and sane. It is important to surround myself with good people who are always willing to listen and talk to. I am blessed to have people such as Rod Cisneros and colleagues around me like Mike Salazar, Chris Braun, Susie Tejada, and John Ahlin. I am also blessed to have a group of teacher/friends that meet every Friday morning for breakfast. Kirby Kauk, Dave Boothby, and Ron Siebert amongst others.”
Another of his colleagues is fellow English teacher Janet Adams. “Phillip is soft spoken and a calming influence. He does not speak up often, but when he does, his words are thoughtful and insightful. Students respect him and enjoy his senior English class. He goes above and beyond. Last June he and his wife treated his students to a wonderful traditional Mexican meal. I wanted to join in that feast!”
In his off time Phillip is very much a family man and very involved in his church in Clovis. His wife is a teacher in Clovis. Phillip’s hobbies show his love of sports and the outdoors as he loves golfing, coaching and working in the yard.
With a love for teaching and being with students of all ages, Phillip plans to continue teaching for as long as possible. “I have a passion for teaching/coaching/training and I want to continue to do so until I can’t get up in the morning to do so.”
Check out our other teacher and school staff profiles in the Exceeding Expectations section.