Warriors You Should Know – Phillip Cipriani

This week’s “Warrior You Should Know” is a teacher from the English department. Phillip Cipriani is only in his second year here at Waubonsie Valley but has been in education for 10 years. He previously taught at Lincoln-Way District 210 before becoming a Warrior. When I first saw Phil, I thought he looked somewhat familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read his responses and then it hit me. I will let you be the judge from the images below…

Keanu Reeves
Phillip Cipriani






I know that you will find Phil’s responses both interesting and at times humorous, so read on and get to know more about Phillip Cipriani.

What do you teach?

I teach Freshman and Junior English.

Why did you get into education?

I always enjoyed reading when I was a kid, and that led me to focusing on literature later on in life. I wanted to get into education not to teach kids literature and grammar, but to get them to like or look at something they probably wouldn’t have done on their own. It always felt like a challenge, and that has been a fun way to look at it when I decide what and how to teach. Also, any young version of myself I can set straight is a win in my book.

Where did you go to high school?

Minooka High School. Oh, you haven’t heard of the lovely town of Minooka? Maybe Stephen Colbert and Nick Offerman can enlighten you.

Where did you go to college?

I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Bachelor’s) and later the University of St. Francis (Master’s).

Where do you get inspiration from?

I get inspired by my colleagues. I’ve been very lucky to be around so many great people in my career, and I look to those people for motivation to better myself. I feel teaching is like golf; a great game that can have its days where you feel you’re on, and other days where you’re throwing your clubs in the lake declaring you’re done with this game. Teaching is like that to me, and just like with golf, I feel it’s about who you play with as much as it is about the game. The people I have worked with and the people I’m working with now make my job great and easy and I give them all the credit in the world for helping me through all the ups and downs.

What is your favorite Warrior Memory?

While I’ve only been here a couple of years, the memories are already piling up. I’m going to hedge this question and list a couple favorites:

The Foggy Fall Play of 2017- I’m the Stage Manager of the Fall play, and we were using a fog machine for a very small scene in the middle of one of the acts. Before the show on Saturday, I had one of my crew kids check the fog machine to test it, and then the entire cast and crew headed upstairs to pump ourselves up for the show. Half an hour later, I hear, “Mr. Cip! Get down here, IT’S everywhere!”. I run down to the stage to see nothing. Not nothing-nothing, I mean I literally could not see more than a few feet in front of me. The fog machine had been accidentally left on by the student checking it, flooding the stage and pouring over the curtains into the auditorium. I thought Calvert was going to have my head on a pike vis-a-vis Madame DeFarge, but he was really cool about it, laughing and telling me it would add to the mood and mystery of the play. A few huge tunnel fans helped soften the fog enough so the audience could see the stage, and we went on with a little softer lighting and whole lot of ambiance.

First Day Impressions- One of my favorite memories is my first day of school teaching at WV. I was sitting in Peplow’s room, nervous to see my new students face to face, looking forward to setting a good first impression. About fifteen minutes before first bell, students start popping in, but then immediately leave the room. Not just popping in, but once through the door, they all would look at me, make a weird face as if to say, “Not what I expected or was hoping for”, and then leave. This kept happening, with at least a dozen students as the time got nearer to the bell. Finally, one student comes in and says very bluntly, “You’re not a woman”. I agreed with her, and pointed to my beard as evidence. She asked me if my name was Ms. So-and-so, and I told her no and what my name was. Apparently, the teacher that I was replacing from last year had not been taken off the roster and all my students’ schedules had her name on them. As I made the announcement in the hallway to all my new students, I started my first class in my new school with the phrase, “I am not Ms. So-and-so. I am a man named Mr. Cipriani”. Great first impression.

Is there a student that you will never forget? Tell us why they were so memorable.

My favorite student is Jimmy Yates. I had Jimmy as a freshman about 7 years ago. Jimmy was definitely not my smartest student, but he had a naive and innocent energy that mad me laugh all the time. To list a few of his notable quirks:

-He shanked a kid during Act 1 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. The kid screamed, and I asked/yelled as why he would stab another kid with his pencil. Jimmy replied he was getting into the role of the feud. I honestly believed him. He’s that naive.

-He ate loaves of bread in my class. Not to be funny, but because he liked loaves of bread. Imagine a freshman trying to sneak a bite from a loaf of bread. The top drawer of my filing cabinet had a small bakery in it due to him.

-He gave me a bottle of french water once. I asked for it because he a had a whole case of bottled waters on his desk. I asked him why he had them, he said he had French next hour and that he was supposed to bring something to eat or drink that was French. I noted that those were just bottles of water, to which he replied, “Yeah, I looked it up, and the French drink this stuff all the time”.

-He asked to have a meeting after class once so he could talk about his character’s role in Romeo and Juliet. He felt his character’s backstory involved a broken marriage with some hard times and an inability to pay his current bills. His character was the 2nd Servingman (one line in the entire play, “Ay, boy, ready”).

And on and on…

What is your most embarrassing moment?

Out of School: Anything to do with introductions. I am the worst. One time, at an Olive Garden, they give you those buzzy pagers to tell you when your table is ready. It buzzed, and I walked up to the hostess. She reached out her hand, and in my confusion I shook it and said my name was Phil. She said thanks, but she only needed the pager.

In School: First year teaching,  first week of teaching, running to my next class from the other side of school where I had a meeting. Run into class, throw up my PowerPoint, pass out my handouts, and start lecturing hard about the ACT and how important it is to my Juniors. I’m really laying into them about why they need to focus this year. Get at least 10 minutes into my lecture when another teacher comes in and asks, “What are you teaching my freshmen?”. I took a good look around and realized I was teaching the wrong class. They all had this scared deer in the headlights look of “Who is this intense ACT guy?” That teacher never let me forget it.

In School: I was Stage Manager for the plays at Lincoln-Way for 3 different high schools, and I used my mom’s old minivan to transport sets and supplies from one school to another. I had the minivan packed driving into the parking lot of my high school one morning, and as I turned right, my entire front left wheel fell off. ​The minivan was stuck right in the middle of the drop off lane. Maintenance put cones around it until we could get somebody out to move it later in the day. Since I got there so early, no one knew who’s minivan it was. All my students were laughing and making fun of it saying “What loser drives an old minivan?” and “That guy’s life must suck”, not knowing it was mine. I kept yelling at all my classes telling them “Maybe that guy has a lot going on in his life and is trying really hard to be a team player with his job. Maybe his mother is going to be real angry at him later for wrecking her car and he doesn’t need that kind of grief by mocking him. …Whoever that guy is.”

Favorite book: 

As a kid,Maniac Magee. As a young person, Brave New World. As a teacher, Macbeth. In general, Anything Michael Crichton or most books being turned into a movie. Most recent read, Ready Player One and  The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Favorite Song/Artist:

Anything alternative from the 90’s Q101 style (Weezer, Green Day, Cranberries, Offspring, Metallica, Jewel, KMFDM, Gravity Kills, Cake, Nine Inch Nails, etc.)

Other music that either doesn’t show my age, I can’t stop putting on loop, or I listen to via Vinyl (My reasoning for buying anything vinyl is the challenges it poses me: What album can be listened to front to back and be awesome throughout?)- LCD Soundsystem, Alt J An Awesome Wave Album, Phil Collins “Take me Home”, Skrillex, Glitch Mob, Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”, Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack, Michael Jackson Thriller Album, Blues Brothers Soundtrack, Ludovico Einaudi, Rocky Soundtrack, No Doubt Tragic Kingdom, Nirvana Unplugged, and Queen Greatest Hits. Basically anything except Country (Exemption for Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. I don’t know why.)

Favorite Movies:

Back to the Future

Fifth Element

Mitchell (MST3K version)

Star Wars (Viewing Order Machete– 4,5,1,2,3,6,7,8) (Enjoyment order- 5,4,7,8,6,1,2,3) I enjoy arguing over this stuff.

Batman (Enjoyment order- Dark Knight, Batmam, Batman Begins, Dark Knight Rises, Batman Returns,Batman Forever, Batman and Robin)

Rocky (Enjoyment order-3,4,2,1,6,7,5)

Anything Keanu Reeves is in

Guilty Pleasure Movies: Pitch Perfect (Only the first one- Something about those Treblemakers…) and the Fast & Furious (F&F) Series (Only the ones with Paul Walker- Between his acting and the seriousness with which they take racing around in cars and saying things like “I live my life a quarter mile at a time”, it’s like bad movie caviar)

F&F (Enjoyment order- 5,4,1,3,6,7,8,2)

Favorite Food:

Peanut M&Ms / Hostess Cupcakes

Favorite childhood teacher and why?

Mrs. Langenfield, 3rd grade teacher. She always thought I was capable of more, and she acted disappointed when I didn’t try hard. She made me realize that I affected other people, and I should be held responsible for my actions both good and bad.

When not at school, where do you like to spend your time or what do you like to do? Do you have any special talents?

Love movies. I get pretty hyped for movies. Love the Marvel movies and seeing them; especially the Infinty War and 4th Avengers. Plenty to talk about with that. Love seeing the Star Wars movies and arguing about those. How do you argue Star Wars? Easy, I’ll show you: Kylo Ren is a far better villian than Darth Vader. George Lucas destroyed his own creation. The arc of Luke Skywalker is the key to the entire Star Wars Saga from Episode 1-9, and will feature prominently in the last installment. Discuss.

I work on my house a lot. Plenty to update and remodel. So I gutted my bathroom and I’m finishing that up now.

I play videogames on the nights I can spare a little time, and I binge watch shows as I grade on long nights (Finished WestWorld and Mr. Robot recently, Dragon Ball Super, and My Hero Academia, moving on to maybe Ozarks? (Let me know if you have any ideas, as long as I can bingewatch the entire season, I am game. I need closure, so I always wait til the season ends before watching something.)

I try to exercise. I’m trying this new thing called “jogging”, or maybe it’s pronounced “yogging” with a soft J​?

I golf during the summer months, so if anyone hosts a fundraiser via golf outing through a sport or club, I am game.

Last but not least: Ping Pong. I feel I am good at ping pong. Yes, my challenge to the school staff is that I am the best ping pong player here. What evidence do I have to support this? None. But what do I have? Confidence. Challenge me! I need to know who can beat me. I feel I’m the best around.

Special Talent: I’m a licensed plumber out of Local 130 in Chicago? If that’s not a talent, then I’m drawing a blank.

What are your future goals?

To get better at everything. Just try to improve on whatever I am doing, whether that’s teaching, golfing, working, having fun, being a #1 dad​, or anything else.

If your department had to vote you, “most likely to…”, what would they vote you?

Probably most likely to tell a story that takes too long to make a point. I mean, look at the above for evidence…

Well, know you know more about Phil and are likely still humming that tune (You’re The Best Around) from the Karate Kid. Be sure to say hello the next time you see Phil and perhaps throw down a challenge to make him prove his mad Ping Pong skills. Perhaps you will find out that he truly is, “The Best Around”.

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