June 6, 2012 not only marked San Gabriel Mission High School’s 60th graduation ceremony held at the historic San Gabriel Playhouse, but it also marked the year anniversary of one of its faculty members, Mr. Christopher Landinguin who suffered a stroke. What do the two have in common? Landinguin credits his recovery to the motivation of his students and now graduates.
Currently, Chris holds the positions of the Fine Arts Department Chair; Graphic Design Instructor and Editor; Media Studies (Mission Television) Instructor, Producer and Editor; Drawing and Painting Instructor; as well as an Academic Counselor at SGMHS.
After Chris suffered his stroke in early May of 2011, he was paralyzed on his left side. He underwent extensive physical therapy, enjoyed dog therapy with Maggie, but “the best therapy” involved the constant visits from his students which ultimately gave him the incentive he needed to return to school.
At the hospital, Chris told his physical therapists he needed to learn how to climb stairs. Puzzled, they asked, “Why?” Chris explained that “my favorite art classroom is on the second floor and I don’t want to move downstairs. I want to be in MY classroom.”
Chris’ wife Sabrina gave him the option of staying home and recuperating, but his spirit and love of teaching would not permit him to abandon his students. His first hurdle was to attend the 2011 graduation ceremony. So 3 weeks after his stroke, Chris was wheeled to the graduation as he still couldn’t walk. Little did the graduates know the major feat it took to get Chris on stage at the playhouse; since he could not walk, he was carried on stage before the commencement and placed in a chair.
When his students saw him at graduation, they were elated. A 2011 alumna, Denise Gonzalez said to Mr. Landinguin, “…you told me just to follow my dreams. Seeing you at our graduation was truly inspiring; we all knew nothing was going to hold you back from showing your support for us. Thank you for being such an awesome teacher and for being an inspiration.”
Former student and 2011 alumna, Erica Vega said, “Mr. Landinguin … always took every negative aspect I saw in myself, made it into a positive one and showed me how it would one day benefit me and make a difference in the world. … When I heard about the recovery and improvement from his stroke, I knew that it was his own personal way of doing it to show his past, present, and future students that despite whatever hardships life throws at you, there is never a reason to give up.”
With his unending determination and the constant encouragement from his visiting students, Chris promised himself he would return to teaching at Mission High in the fall of 2011. True to his word, on the first day of classes, August 15, 2011,
Chris Landinguin returned to his teaching job. With the assistance of his wife, Sabrina who is also a teacher, Chris would arrive to work each morning at 6:30 a.m. His wife would help him get settled in and prepared to begin another day of teaching.
When therapists told Chris they didn’t see him progressing anymore, he wasn’t discouraged. Instead of being depressed, he told himself he could get better. With the help of his nephew Michael, who is his trainer, they do their own version of physical therapy. He feels that the loss of Michael’s father Fredie, Landinguin’s brother who succumbed to a stroke in January 2011, has motivated Michael to help his Uncle Chris and Landinguin is most grateful. Currently, he sees an improvement in his abilities everyday. Since his left side was affected by the stroke and Chris is left-handed, he misses playing the guitar and drawing, but he practices drawing and writing his name everyday. In his heart of hearts he knows that one day he will be able to return to playing his music and drawing the art that he loves.
This year’s graduation was special to many of Mr. Landinguin’s students. When 2012 graduate Caitlynn Smith talked to Mr. Landinguin she said, “You motivated me to be a person of strength and perseverance. This past year you have showed me that I can overcome any struggle that comes my way. You have inspired me to always live like it is your last day.”
Another graduate, Stephanie Chavez, was one of the first students to visit Mr. Landinguin at the hospital. Stephanie became one of his strongest supporters, visiting him every day, brining him homework to grade, helping with therapy, and keeping him company during his one-month hospital stay. She became part of “Team Landinguin,” his stoke recovery team.
In talking with Chris, the one thing that helped him the most was keeping as much normalcy in his life as possible. It helped him overcome all the hurdles he faced on a daily basis. In the meantime, Chris Landinguin will continue to inspire his students and encourage them “to be the best that they can be. He reminds himself and his students that, a positive mind can overcome anything.”
To learn more about Chris Landinguin’s inspirational story, check out: http://bit.ly/JOCKOC