Helping kids for 56 years

Warren Popp can’t stop helping kids,” reports the Sacramento Bee.

Popp, 80, retired as an educator in 1993. Just three months later, he returned to school as a counselor after a call for help from Campos Verdes Adult School.

These days – 56 years after he started teaching – Popp can be found in the lab at Keema High School, his head of curly white hair bobbing up and down as he patiently explains math to teenagers in jeans, hooded sweatshirts and tennis shoes.

The 580 students attending the alternative high school at McClellan Park meet with teachers once a week, spending the other days working independently at home. Some are behind on their credits or have jobs. Others are pregnant, and a few are caretakers for an ill parent. More than a handful have suffered bullying at traditional schools or come from traumatic family situations.

Popp started as a math teacher in 1957, then became a counselor. In retirement, he’s worked as a counselor and math tutor.

“Mr. Popp is one of the most decent, genuinely kindhearted people that there is,” said Darren Miller, Foothill High class of 1983, who blogs here.

When Miller became a math teacher – he now works at Rio Americano High School – Popp and former Foothill High principal Richard Nelson took Miller to a Denny’s restaurant one day and “told me how to be a good math teacher. Seventeen years later and I’m still using their guidance.”

Popp was honored as high school counselor of the year in August.

1,700 students per counselor

Overwhelmed with students and short of funding, California’s community colleges plan to give enrollment priority to students who commit to an academic plan in their first year of college and make progress toward their goals. But a state law is making it hard to hire enough counselors. One college has 1,700 students per counselor. Students wait hours to get five or 10 minutes with a counselor.

More Latinos are enrolling in college, but graduation rates remain low.