Linda Kapala has been a familiar and friendly face in the Foothill media center, helping students find information on everything from good books to read to college information to organizing community service. After 17 years of service, Kapala is retiring.
Her official title is Career and Media Specialist and it is a “job of many hats.”
“I get the textbooks for the school […] the same thing with library books. I also issue work permits and run the community service program. I’m liaison between the students and the community […] believe it or not that job requires hours and hours and hours of work,” Kapala explained.
Before joining Foothill’s original staff, Kapala worked as a special education teacher at Ventura High School teaching a class of “severely emotionally disturbed students.” She was originally hired as a temporary substitute teacher at another school. The class had previously gotten rid of more than a few subs, but never managed to make Kapala quit. After her success with that class, she took the job at Ventura and took classes each semester to earn her degree in special education.
Throughout her years as a special education teacher, Kapala’s goal was to provide her students with a stable environment where they could be successful. Many of her students came from very unstable and often difficult homes, so she worked hard to make sure her classroom was a place where they had stability. She organized trips for her students that “no one had dared give them before,” such as a trip to the Getty Museum. Despite their difficult childhoods, many of Kapala’s students went on to lead normal and happy lives and she is still in touch with about half of them.
Special education teachers often have a high burnout rate and with this in mind, Kapala decided that when she started to burn out, she would become a Career and Media Specialist. She was not yet burnt out when the job offer came to be Foothill’s Career and Media Specialist, but she also realized that there was only one person at each school with this job, so she decided to take it.
Foothill was a completely different place in the early years and Kapala remembers the small student body and staff having lots of “spirit.” She remembers the close-knit community of the first few small classes and the excitement of watching the campus being built from across the street with the students.
“We were across the street in trailers. We were real close, because there wasn’t much room and there was just such a spirit. We were all adventurers on this journey to a new school,” Kapala recalled.
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Within the field of education, Kapala has seen many changes as well. She describes the changing education system as a “giant pendulum” and there are always new programs being instituted, the most recent being Common Core. Kapala believes that in the next several years the education system will change even more. She has noticed that classes have become larger over the years and that teacher burnout has become more frequent due to the pressure of trying to keep up with higher standards and low wages.
“We have got to start valuing are teachers more,” Kapala said. “They put so much time and effort into this and are often under appreciated. […] Teaching is a wonderful profession, but if you get to the point where you feel like you can’t promote it, we need to take a step back and look at what we are doing.”
Kapala believes that adding more days to the school year and hours to instruction time each day would benefit teacher and lessen the pressure on them while starting school later would benefit students, especially high school students.
While Kapala considers all aspects of her job to be rewarding, the most rewarding part for her is her relationships with the students. She enjoys making connections with them and “touching their hearts.” She makes a point of noticing if a student seems to be lonely or if they are having a bad day. She makes sure to say hello to them and to recognize their talents to help make Foothill a friendlier place for them. People often ask Kapala if the students make her tired and her response is an emphatic “no.”
“They keep you young, they keep you on your toes. Kids are interesting and exciting. They’re innovative. They have their stories, they have their tragedies, and they have their joys. I think student encounters on a daily basis are the best part of my day,” Kapala said.