Prologue - Season 2

Song Credit:

“La Brea” by Les McCann, Talkin’ Verve, 1998

According to the U.S. News and World Report: in 2019, Lane Tech ranked #3 among Illinois’ top schools, and #69 in the nation. The school graduates 98% percent of their students, many of whom have undergone rigorous curricula and innovative learning opportunities. With a student body of more than 4000 students and a staff comprised of about 200 full-time teachers, Lane Tech is one of the largest successful selective enrollment high schools in Chicago. The school also houses a 7th and 8th grade Academic Center program that accepts around 120 top-performing students a year, all of whom must demonstrate exceptional GPA and test scores. Among the diverse population of students and staff, there is also a sound-engineering room, a 3D printing and maker’s lab, an ever-evolving computer science department, a robust art, music, and drama program, robotics, and, of course, athletics - hence the motto “City of Champions.” It even has its own Memorial Garden adorned with statues and a trickling fountain right in the center of the building. It’s truly a gem in the middle of Northside Chicago.

So why did I leave? And after 13 years, why did I resign from Chicago Public Schools?

Allison Pincsak: Recovery and Resilience

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Song Credit:

“Easily” by Bruno Major, 2016


Allison makes teaching and music worthwhile for me.

She grips the worn down frets of her guitar with grit and humility. When she joined Lane’s TV Production and Broadcasting Class in 2010, I was elated to meet a student who was fond of sharing her musical artistry and creative vision for the development of the program.

Caring for her younger siblings, surviving complex brain surgery, finding her voice in the harmony of crisis and transformation, this girl doesn’t quit. She just strums in and out of the rhythm of providence.

As a teacher, you can’t help but be proud of how far she’s come, listening to her sound and learning from her soul.      


Daniel Law: Stand for Something

Song Credit:

"Grows Old" by Thirdstory, The Verve Music Group, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc., 2016

Dan and I became friends because he was the one other Asian teacher at our school back in 2006. We would revel in the shortsightedness of faculty members, as they occasionally got us confused, even though we looked nothing alike. Little did we know, we were more similar than we realized.

As first generation Asian males, who grew up with a mediocre interest in our educational experiences, we ironically have grown into passionate pursuers of unorthodox teaching methods, which would - to traditional schooling -  sound like nails on a chalkboard. However, instead of being burdened with social ideals that seem to have polarized autonomous thinking, we are willing to give two minutes to the possibility of not always being right, though humbly admitting how great it certainly feels. I admire Dan, not only because of the work he and his computer science team have done in the name of education, but also what he stands for as an individual. It’s the kinda shit that is worth not just sitting around for.

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Magellan Yadao: Sum of Experiences

Song Credit: "I Got It Bad (And It Ain't Good)" by Oscar Peterson, Night Train, 1992


One of the many things that I admire about my brother is his dauntless experiments with music. His voice is powerful and soulful; his ability to layer harmony, calculated. It’s probably the reason why at a young age, he started listening to jazz music, a place where science and magic converge. It was contrary to my childhood experience of learning classical piano because I was told what to play and when to play it. My sight-reading was sluggish, and my teacher was morose. My indifference towards the great works of Bach and Beethoven left me contributing very little to practicing. I was at odds with the material.

Even in 1906, education reformer John Dewey had a point, when he stated that “Facts and truths that enter into the child’s present experience, and those contained in the subject-matter of studies, are the initial and final terms of one reality. To oppose one to the other is to oppose the infancy and maturity of the same growing life” (Dewey, 1902). 

As educators, we bear the responsibility of bridging the gap between the child and the abstract. We are the more knowledgeable other in the room who must see to it that the child’s present experience transitions into another, more versatile and resilient experience. There should be no fixed idealizations of children because in adapting that mentality we fall into the danger of labeling them as behind, advanced, or disadvantaged.

True learning stems from genuine curiosity, and it certainly bodes the questions: Are we doing enough in public education to incite curiosity within our students, and are we being provided the means with which to do it?

Such questions would have rivaled my piano teacher’s rhetorical inquiry of “did you even practice at all?” I could never come up with a good answer. I always just sat silently on the piano bench, hearing the faint jazz riff my brother had created, muffled behind his bedroom door.  

Work Cited: Dewey, J. (1902). The child and the curriculum (p. 12). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Marina Gapultos Rativo, Mila Loreck, Marcelo Pascua, Jr., Marilyn Yadao, and Lily T. Pascua: Family Spirit


Song Credit:  "Tonight You Belong to Me" by Eddie Vedder, Ukulele Songs, 2011; "Improv #10 - One Last Thought" by The Daydream Club, Piano Project, 2016; "Jessem" by LUCHS, Totelli, 2016; "Her Eyes the Stars" by LUCHS, Her Eyes the Stars, 2016; "Warm Darkness" by Mia Strass; Warm Darkness, 2017


There are only a handful of instances that I can remember that have defined my Filipino culture. Much of it gets convoluted upon adopting American customs and ideologies. On the other hand, understanding where you’re from can solidify an almost predestined path towards contentment, or at least, a direction towards what is valuable and worthwhile. 

For wisdom to be drawn from one’s predecessors, it’s imperative to rekindle an enthusiasm for open-mindedness, discovery, and risk-taking. When my Tita Marina at 90-years-old told me about the atrocities she witnessed during World War II, I was all ears. However, what captivated me the most wasn’t the graphic descriptions of the beheadings carried out by Japanese soldiers or the ditches she and her family used as refuge from aerial dog fights; it was her undeniable resilience gained from withstanding the trials throughout her lifetime.

As the oldest living matriarch on my mother’s side of the family, Marina Gapultos Rativo should be admired. After all, resilience runs through her blood. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1941, her father Memerto Gapultos survived the treacherous Bataan Death March as a prisoner of war, escaped the horrific conditions at the O’Donnell Concentration Camp, and miraculously returned after a three-day long journey back to his childhood home in Camiling. 

Her grandfather Don Modesto Gapultos was highly respected among the residents of Camiling. Nicknamed “Thunder”, his presence and voice were robust with authority and prominence. Only someone like Thunder could endure torturous interrogations from Japanese officers who questioned him about his involvement in supplying guerrilla resistance fighters with food and weapons.

And only someone like Marina can inspire curiosity, optimism, and hope to anyone who so chooses to offer their arm for her to hold onto while she walks and shares fond memories and family tree history. 

As Marina presses on, she will occasionally recall the invaluable life lessons passed onto her by her late husband Isabello Rativo, as if a wise, old sage with an unorthodox flare has left an imprint on Marina’s spirit, guiding her and consoling her indefinatiely. 

At 90, Tita Marina represents more than just longevity; she symbolizes the enduring spirit of family. 

What defines Filipino culture better than that? 

Mark Smithivas: Catalyst for Change


Song Credit: "Strong Man" by Wynton Kelly, Piano, 1958


Time as an obstacle for unique and innovative change seems to be a pervading theme, not just in this episode, but also within the public school profession. So I suppose the poignant questions are: as teachers, what is our time being used for, and why (or why not) are these things valuable to a student’s continuity of experience? Someone may look at this question as a posture for radical openness, but for someone like John Dewey, it was a quintessential concern for learning itself. Thus, the philosophical inquiry should begin. UIC professor William H. Schubert encourages us to explore the “connections between our actions and [philosophical] be in a better position to control and liberate our lives. Knowledge of this connection enables more defensible and justifiable action, which in turn brings educational growth” (Schubert, 1986). In other words, let’s pump the brakes on this momentum of “I must get this done” and take a metacognitive step back to reflect on “what must students and teachers do to have a meaningful educational experience?”  

Mark Smithivas is a father committed to probing these types of questions because, like all parents, he wants the best for his children. What is inspiring about him is that he takes action - not through writing nasty blogs or sending disingenuous emails to administration to complain about teachers. On the contrary, he starts a podcasting club, organizes a program that fosters children’s artistic and technological growth, and encourages connecting with people through the art of storytelling. Not to mention, his love for Target is endearing. In an age of public schooling when parents, teachers, and administration seem to be more out of sync than ever before, it is refreshing to know someone who still explores the aisles of learning with consumeristic enthusiasm. Attention Target Team Members: Smithivas is a catalyst for change.


Work Cited

Schubert, W. H. (1986). Curriculum: Perspective, paradigm, possibility (p. 119). New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Magellan Yadao: Faith or Foolishness

Song Credit: “Faith” by Lake Street Dive, Fun Machine, EP, 2012

Recording your first podcast episode has got to be nerve wracking for some, especially in a format that is free and open. It’s where knowledge and experiences are exchanged and can materialize into ways all their own. I suppose that’s the trend: organic.

As an English public high school teacher nearing the end of his 11th year, I march forward with much uncertainty. I stand at the crucible of my career and my own existential understanding, moved by the momentum of a force unknown to me and yet so familiar. Call it faith or call it foolishness, my creative and inquisitive spirit needs to be fed, and this may be the way to do it - through the ancient art of authentic and genuine conversation. We need each other to learn, so that we can connect in ways we never thought we could.

In Episode 1, my brother says it best: “We’ve crossed the paradigm. You’re returning back to that eagerness to be creative.” And if there’s anything that this podcast has done for me so far, it’s set me free. As an insecure individual for most of my life, what better act of defiance is there than to call my podcast “Yadaoist” and publish personal philosophies to a world so critical of them?

And, so, cheers to you uncertainty. Here we go.