A warm spirit of appreciation mingled with the chilly night air on Friday, November 6, 2015, as community members, students, faculty, and staff rallied to cheer on the Spartans during the last home football game of the season and to pay homage to an educator, recognized most by the enduring love and support he has given to the students of La Cañada throughout his career.
During halftime, Jim Harvey was presented with an award for his contributions to La Cañada High School, especially the athletics department. According to Associate Principal Jim Cartnal, “This award is unique and special to Mr. Harvey. He was a member of the first faculty generation at La Cañada High School; he has given himself tirelessly to the students’ well being; and he has been the voice of La Cañada athletics for over forty years—that is why we are honoring him tonight.”
Jim Harvey began teaching and calling the athletic events at LCHS in 1973. In 1986, he became the assistant to Head Basketball Coach Tom Hofman and supported the players, as they won the CIF Southern Section Championships in1992 and 2011. At one point, he served as the athletic director for the school. In 1989, he established the LCHS Hall of Fame, which he calls his “proudest contribution to LCHS.” He still oversees it, and he still calls the football games, though he retired from teaching in 2011.
These achievements alone, however, are not what brought so many of his former students, colleagues, and friends to the evening’s presentation. Rather, his fans came to show their gratitude and admiration for his commitment not only to teaching but also to caring for his students. Jamie Lewsadder, a past pupil and fellow teacher recalls, “He talked a lot about the power of relationships. They were important to him. Something a lot of people don’t know is that for each graduating class, a year after, he would send each member of that class a letter, typed on his typewriter, to check in with what was going on in their lives and to share what was going on in his life.”
Other alumni raved about his approachability and his creativity in relating their interests to class themes. Most of them have a unique nickname bestowed upon them by Mr. Harvey, also known as “The Harv.” RT Van Valer, nicknamed “The Franchise” recalled, “Harv was a great teacher because he made information fun to learn. He was very entertaining. It made senioritis bearable.” Describing Harvey as a coach, Van Valer continued, “He calmed us all down, made us laugh.” Now that Valer also works as an LCHS assistant coach, he is putting into practice the principles he learned from Harvey, “The biggest lesson Harvey taught me about working with players is to respect everyone. Don’t demand respect; command respect.” Libby Cline reminisced about Harvey’s favorite jokes, his ability to make anyone smile, and the movies he loved to show in class, and commented, “La Cañada has had a lot of inspiring teachers, and he is definitely one of them.”
Former colleagues also eagerly praised Harvey and shared insight into why he was so popular with the students. According to retired teacher and baseball coach Gary Liere, “He was always honest. He had a marvelous sense of humor. He related with them really well. Harvey remembers everybody’s names. He’s almost like a historian for La Cañada. He supported all things, not just his sports.” Tom Hofman describes him as “very player friendly, very knowledgeable about the game, and a lot of fun. For thirty years, he’s been my assistant coach and my best friend.”
Current Athletic Director Kristina Kalb, nicknamed “KKALB9, ” organized the event. She shared, “Harv is a most trusted colleague who genuinely cares about each and everyone he works with and has taught. Harv is firm in his convictions and will stand up for what he believes is right. The time he spends with students and colleagues is always special and he makes sure everyone knows how important they are. I also love how Harv remembers everything - he knows stats like no one else I know. It is amazing!”
His optimistic, friendly demeanor, genuine interest in the welfare of his students, and unwavering dedication to the school established him as a trusted, engaging mentor to many and continue to set an example of true leadership for educators everywhere. When asked what current and incoming teachers can learn from Harvey as a veteran teacher, Mr. Cartnal responded, “To remember that teaching is really about caring for students and their well being, not about test scores and assessments, and to commit to the school like Jim has.”
Following the tribute, Mr. Harvey humbly accepted his award, as the crowd cheered, and stated, “I’m the one that’s so lucky, the one God meant to be at La Cañada High School…I love this high school, always have and always will.” After the ceremony, he continued to express, “I am so honored, so blessed by the school and community. This school and this community have given me more than I’ve given them.”
With so much valuable experience collected over the course of his career, Mr. Harvey has plenty of sage advice to share. For future educators, he recommends, “Be genuine. Be true. Show the students you care about them.” For students, he insists, “Always take a positive approach. Be excited you’re alive. It’s a miracle you were born. Love is the greatest word of all, and the greatest emotion ever. Love others; be good to others; and you will be successful.”
Ultimately, Harvey did not just lecture about the “power of relationships;” he lived it. His genuine love for his school, his students, and his community has not only enriched the lives of everyone who has known him but has also led him to be, as Van Valer said in his speech, “One of the most beloved teachers to ever walk the halls of La Cañada High School.”