Shar Higa is the Long Beach Century Club’s president-elect and the first ever female to be inducted as president. She is also a teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District.
As a teacher in LBUSD, what is one of your proudest moments or greatest triumphs?
My very favorite moments are what we sometimes refer to as “a-ha!” moments with students. When things are going well, teachers can actually see light bulbs going on as teenagers flip from disinterested to engaged. You might only get a few of these a year, but they keep you going. Just as an example: I had a student recently who was a wonderful poet. She filled notebooks at home with verses about love and heartbreak and then would recite them to me the next day. I began to notice that she incorporated our class vocabulary words into her poetry. She was using these new words to bring her inner thoughts into the world. It was thrilling to be part of her journey.
What challenges face your students on a daily basis that you work to overcome?
Many of my students live lives that have been affected by trauma and extreme stress. I’ve taught students with terrifying immigration stories and students who have fled abusive homes. I’ve taught teenagers whose young lives have included periods of homelessness or incarceration. Maybe English is their second language, or they’re caring for younger siblings because their parents work long hours. There’s certainly a lot of financial insecurity among my students and many of them spend most of the school day hungry.
As a teacher, I am responsible for creating a space for my students in which they know that they are valued and that they are safe. I do what I can to share their load a bit and give them some space to breathe. Whether that’s listening to them talk about their trauma and sharing some tears, or handing them a granola bar and giving them some quiet time when they need it. I try to give them a positive place to land.
What are your favorite ways to spend free time in LB both with and without your kids?
I grew up down the street from the El Dorado Nature Center, and it remains my favorite place in Long Beach. I don’t have much kid-free time there anymore, but it’s a beloved destination for my family on weekends and breaks.
Do you think you bring any sort of unique perspective to Century Club being a teacher?
I think every group benefits from having diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The benefit of having an educator’s voice in the room is simply the ability to tell a story besides the wins/losses on the field. In a city with an athletic tradition as incredible as Long Beach’s, I think we can get a little bit blinded by the trophies and medals that our athletes earn. But the Century Club has also given to teams and programs that don’t have those winning records or those national rankings. I think it’s helpful to have a teacher on the board of directors who can talk about the kids on those teams and what the experience of playing sports for a Long Beach school means to them. That’s not going to be appointment-viewing for most people, but it’s everything for the athletes who are on the field.
I don’t know that my experience as a teacher gives me more insight than my fellow members, but my day-to-day interactions with the students we support certainly helps me to understand and take pride in the Club and its mission.