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Hangin’ with Mr. Wilbur

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Forest Hills High School has had many principals and changes over the last 80 years since its establishment. Despite its long history, few people know much about those running our building. Mr. Wilbur, the current Principal of Forest Hills High School, began working here in the 2019-2020 school year. Although he’s worked for three and a half years, many students may not know much about him. Mr. Wilbur began to work in the field of education as he had been inspired by his family of educators to pursue it as his passion. He worked as a Spanish teacher at Richmond Hill High School.  After Mr. Wilbur received a Master’s Degree from Hunter College and his administration certification from Queens College, he worked as an Assistant Principal for 16 years to help uphold high standards for education.

As a part of his daily routine, he thinks about his plan for the day pays attention to students that may be around the hallway, focuses on those who may need help, presents fliers to parents about the school, and manages education
systems. He enjoys the time he spends managing the school, as he was “used to places with high energy.” Despite the demands of the school, Mr. Wilbur does not appear to feel overwhelmed about the whole process; he enjoys the diversity that Forest Hills High School brings, with many students from multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and countries. As a former Spanish teacher, he appreciates how many languages are taught and the various cultures presented in the school. However, there were difficulties involved during the past few years. As COVID-19 has caused substantial changes to teaching and learning when schools closed, adaptation was necessary. Google Classroom pages were created, teachers used Google Meet and Zoom to talk to students at home, and an online form was created to record school attendance for the second half towards the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Mr. Wilbur recognized how difficult transitioning to teaching at home was, and teachers were advised to not give homework to students during the breaks later on in future years. While the 2019-2020 school year was chaotic, attendance rates improved over time as teachers and students learned how to use technology to learn. Since then, the situation regarding COVID-19 has improved as students returned to schools in the 2021-2022 school year, but there is certainly a lot more to achieve.

Walking around the office to get an understanding of Mr. Wilbur’s daily surroundings, I saw a few pictures of students playing with their instruments and trophies on shelves from student victories. Mr. Wilbur likes the visual and performing arts, explaining that the production of art and music appeals to the creative mind and he enjoys what “you can see or hear.” The production of the arts may seem difficult, especially when drawing in a certain way or composing a song of a certain genre. However, people can understand they can learn anything when they see how they have progressed. When it comes to extensive projects and activities, cooperation and collaboration is required for success.

Wilbur described the three main criteria for success to be “confidence, speaking, and writing.” The philosophy is that students become exposed to great challenges in an attempt to allow them to understand what’s going on and find ways to overcome them, which connects to the mission statement of our school: to provide an environment that allows students to be involved in cultural understanding
and challenge students academically for lifelong success. This is possible through a variety of Advanced Placement classes, competitive clubs such as the Science Olympiad and the Robotics team, and electives that students may be interested in.

Mr. Wilbur understands that mistakes are essential to learning and allows students many opportunities to succeed. There are a few issues around the school, such as managing tutoring sessions for classes, arranging how classes are set up for the large student population, and even the new grade book system that is being set up by the NYCDOE. However, many of them are being worked on and will allow Forest Hills High School to improve in a new era. As I ended the main interview I had with Mr. Wilbur, I asked him one last question: “Are there any last words for the students of Forest Hills High School?”

“Students are perfectly capable of doing work, and they will be set up for success and be ready for anything, mentally and physically.”

In a large school made up of nearly 4,000 students, there are many things for the principal to take care of. While there are still many improvements to be made, the school is still flourishing, and Mr. Wilbur continues to strive for the best educational experience in the classroom.

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About the Contributor
Victor Lam, Web Editor and Section Editor
Victor is a senior at Forest Hills High School. He likes to listen to music and code.
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