With a deep appreciation for performance and a passion for theater arts, Joe Hudelson is no stranger to switching roles frequently and excelling in new environments.
The English teacher in his first semester at Mills High School credits his drama experience, as well as an undying love for education, for his ability to immediately succeed in unfamiliar surroundings.
Hudelson, 44, earned recognition from his new colleagues for seamlessly transitioning back to the classroom from the administrative offices in his former role as assistant principal at Capuchino High School.
A winner of the school’s Golden Apple award, Hudelson said he appreciated the honor given by fellow teachers and administrators to those showing an ability to fill an essential role.
“It feels great. I’ve always been a teacher at heart, so to dive into a really good environment and be supported — it’s a good feeling. To be acknowledged by my peers is an honor,” he said.
Mills High School Principal Pam Duszynski said Hudelson received the honor in his first semester after quickly establishing himself as a key component of the campus community.
“We are thrilled to have him at Mills. It’s been a great experience,” said Duszynski.
Combining his two passions — education and theater — has been essential to his immediate ability to thrive in his new surroundings, said Hudelson.
Since starting in the fall, Hudelson began helping the school’s drama club run performances, continuing a role he used to fill during his previous tenure at Capuchino High School.
His help with his last school’s theater department was crucial in building Hudelson’s popularity with students and parents, who vigorously came to his defense last year amidst a clash with Capuchino High School Principal Shamar Shanks.
Though terms of the disagreement remain unclear, Hudelson was dismissed from his administrative post and reassigned back to the classroom at a new school, to the chagrin of many in San Bruno.
Hudelson, a Pleasanton resident, said he still questions the justification for the decision to remove him from his former post.
“I felt I was doing a good job. I felt like I elevated a lot of different facets of the school. I was popular. I felt I made an impact on the environment. But for whatever reason, it was the principal’s prerogative. I could dwell of the negative aspects of it, but what happened already happened,” he said.
While some may harbor bitterness over the mandated move potentially considered a demotion, Hudelson said there’s no hard feelings.
“Some things are out of my hands, but I can’t control that, so I’m going to play the role of a teacher,” he said.
Though he’d been out of the classroom for nearly seven years, Hudelson said he is quickly adapting to being in front of students, which in some ways is akin to acting for an audience.
“I have to go off script and roll with the punches. It’s kind of a metaphor for me being a performer,” he said.
Duszynski said the effort is paying dividends, as Hudelson fostered a solid bond with the school community while again finding his appreciation for teaching.
“He’s connected with students, faculty and students and built a good rapport,” she said. “And we’ve seen that flame rekindled.”
For his part, Hudelson agreed he has again found an enjoyment for education, though the path back to the classroom has been a bit bumpy.
“It came out good in the end because I love teaching. I never thought I would love it as much as I do. I feel inspired. It’s a shot in the arm,” he said.
Through this process though, Mills High School students are not the only ones benefiting from new opportunities.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Hudelson. “I’m pretty humbled by this whole experience.”
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