Vanessa Pai Wins CIF Champions for Character Award


Photo courtesy of Vanessa Pai

Rylyn Wang, Staff writer

Sports medication teacher Vanessa Pai received the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Champions for Character Award, an accolade granted to individuals exhibiting exceptional character, Monday, Sept. 26.

Every year, an average of eight administrators from the CIF Southern Section, which consists of 558 schools, are nominated to attend a banquet. This year, Pai was invited to honor her work as an athletic trainer at Gary High School, where she started her career. 

“I was pretty surprised. I think because what I do is mostly behind the scenes, I’m not usually the type that would get recognition for the little things that I do. It’s usually coaches that’ll get represented [or] the athletes who are playing the sport,” Pai said. “As the athletic trainer, it’s unique for me to get it.”

Pai instructs Career Technical Education ( CTE) Sport Medicine and Sports Physical Therapy, advising her students about body parts, injuries and injury treatments. Her classes give students an introduction to careers in athletic training and physical therapy. 

“I think this award exemplifies not just Ms. Pai, but many of our teachers in CTE. [They] have learned technical skills, gained experience out in the real world, and then [brought] it into the classroom. So, students have the academic, the social and the technical skills,” instructional dean Nelson Chen said. “I think that’s what CTE is all about.” 

Pai’s teaching style makes her class interactive for students. For example, she gives out daily ice-breaker questions to engage students before the lesson.  

“Today’s question was how would you like to be cooked if you were a potato? [Pai] makes [the class] fun. She makes it interesting with her love for sports medicine and being an athletic trainer,” senior Elizabeth Scroggins said. “Her connection with her students is very strong and makes us more engaged. She’s very dedicated and she makes sure everyone gets it.”

Pai is the second staff member of Walnut High School to ever be recognized with the Champions for Character award, after former principal Ken Gunn in 2004.

“To receive an award like this, I think it talks about her character, as well as her devotion and her passion to serve a community. All of that is encompassed in what that award means. It’s very rare,” Chen said.