Alhambra High School alumnus Joe Saltzman has been named the national 2010 Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year by the Scripps Howard Foundation. Saltzman, who is a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, credited the award to the guidance of his former AHS journalism and English teacher, Ted Tajima, who passed away in February at the age of 88.
Saltzman recalled in an interview with USC News how Tajima change the course of his life. In his junior year of high school, Tajima found him crying in the hallway. When he asked him what was wrong, Saltzman explained that an AHS counselor had crushed his dream of being the first person in his family to go to college. “I told him that the high school counselor just told me I wasn’t college material and that I should follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a window cleaner,” Saltzman told USC News.
“Ted was furious and went to see that high school counselor,” Saltzman continued. “When he came back, he told me that together, we would work to get me into the best school of journalism on the West Coast – the University of Southern California – and with a scholarship as well. And he made it happen. If it weren’t for Ted, I probably would have ended up a window cleaner.”
Saltzman is one of the many students Tajima inspired. As advisor for the high school’s journalism program, Tajima led The Moor Newspaper to the National Scholastic Press Association’s All-American distinction 26 times as well as awards for innovation and overall excellence.
“I know I became a teacher because of his influence on me,” Saltzman told Rafu Shimpo earlier this year. “I wanted to do for future journalists what he had done for me … Hundreds of Ted’s former students would tell you much the same thing. He changed their lives as he did mine. And he did it with humor, with patience, with grace, with intelligence, with compassion.”