Farewell, Ms. Baer


By Margarita Hovsepyan

With 18 years of experience and teaching, counseling and administrative credentials under her belt, Assistant Principal and Counselor Ms. Phyllis Baer is bidding farewell to the Los Angeles Unified School District and beginning a chapter in her life as a retiree.

Initially, Ms. Baer wasn’t interested in counseling. In fact, math was her favorite subject in school, so she had planned to become a math teacher. But she soon put her career on hold to raise a family. After moving to a naval base in Hawaii with her husband, she stopped school to have a child.

When she decided to return to college she found that her interest in math had waned, so instead, she began taking psychology classes and immediately fell in love with the subject.

“I have three children,” she says “and when my son’s friends would come over, they would sit down and talk with me, asking for advice. My kids would protest saying ‘C’mon let’s go!’”

It was then Ms. Baer realized that she had a knack for counseling. It was her true calling.

In 1998, she began a career as a substitute teacher. In 2000, she started working for LAUSD as an Interventionist Counselor at Fulton Middle School, when she worked with Dr. Judith Vanderbach, who would later become Principal at Van Nuys High School.

After Dr. Vanderbach made the move to Van Nuys, she asked Ms. Baer to join her staff. She’s been here since 2006.

As for the most memorable part of her career, Ms. Baer said “There are a couple of students who have graduated and then come back and said ‘thanks so much for all you did.’ I love what I do and when those people appreciate what I did for them it shows that I went above and beyond in impacting their lives.”

Born and raised in San Bernardino, Ms. Baer is a native Californian. Her family has a rich history in the U.S. One of her ancestors was American hero Daniel Boone’s neighbor. Her great-great-great grandfather fought in the French-Indian War alongside George Washington.

One day, her great-great grandchildren might say their great-great grandma was the Assistant Principal for one of the best magnet schools in America. They might even say she was the Assistant Principal for the president, or the founder of a huge company, or the next great activist of our times.

“Van Nuys High School is an amazing place for students and for adults, and that comes from the leadership of Ms. Gardea,” said Ms. Baer. “I hope that everyone takes advantage of the opportunities they have here and to grow and to learn… I think that being here a real privilege.”

“I’m leaving feeling fulfilled and I did it with people who appreciate what I do. But the focus here are the kids and that comes from the leadership of Ms. Gardea.”

In her retirement, Ms. Baer plans to spend more time with family, especially her three grandchildren. She also plans to travel, driving around the country. “Eventually,” she said, “I’d like to travel Europe with friends.”