Photo by Kevin Huang
The applause roared up quickly in Mr. Asher’s 6th period, not for the first time nor the last, and Mr. Asher did a little bow and hand flourish to signify his approving mirth. On every occasion through the year that the class has applauded him, the reason was consistent: he deserved it, and everyone knew it.
The sheer magnitude of people impacted by Mr. Asher was illustrated by the sign-waving, voice breaking tributes in this year’s Farewell Assembly. It was shown by the countless tear-stained faces that walked campus after hearing the news, lost and dismayed. It was proved by the increase in love needed, given, and received across campus to mourn the loss of a great teacher, coach, musician, and person.
While Mr. Asher was known primarily for his work as an English teacher, his renaissance nature spread his passion to more than just his students. A former tennis coach and a dedicated musician, Mr. Asher made it a point to spread and share passions with the many students he has taught through his 17 years as a teacher.
Mr. Asher’s music was another source of joy for those around him. Memories and recordings of his songs are treasured fondly, and so was his impact on other musicians.
“We shared a passion for music together… but more than that he was also interested in my music and what I was doing,” said senior Xander Zooi.
He encouraged music in all of its forms, even when he wasn’t quite comfortable or familiar with it yet. He even blasted Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” one day.
In fact, Mr. Asher was a lover of all the arts. Whenever he played selections from his musical it was a rare treat. He once played a song he wrote for the California lottery, then refused to sell it to because he was “young and full of pride”. He organized and fundraised for a touring Shakespeare troupe to present to all the English classes. When there wasn’t enough space in the theater for all the English classes, he volunteered his own to not go.
It quickly became apparent to any and all of Mr. Asher’s students where his priorities were. It went students, then students, then students, and somewhere further down the classic obligations of a class wormed their way in. He constantly showed compassion, empathy, and positivity to his students, and did so above the obligations of the classroom.
When senior Cynthia Warren contacted Mr. Asher, apologizing for her lack of attendance, Mr. Asher cared less about getting her back into class and more about her comfort and helping her deal with the stress she was under.
Ever since then, he took time to be considerate about how I was doing and what was going on in my life, always ready to give his advice. It was with his support that I grew comfortable with the idea of going to community college.” Warren said.
For senior Saliko Adams, Mr. Asher used that same flexibility, and enabled her to do a work study in Florida during the school year. He gave her abbreviated assignments and prioritized her and her passion for art. Adams says that before Mr. Asher passed, he promised to come to her show at the Art Center’s south campus in LA.
Mr. Asher’s commitment to positivity and support was inherent to his teaching.
“After the first week of being in AP Lit I told him that I needed to switch out… because I wasn’t cut out to be in the class. He told me not to worry and to stick around. I remember just [two weeks ago] he told me ‘I told you you could do it! I knew you had it in you.’” senior Olivia Kim said.
But Mr. Asher didn’t just dedicate himself to those in his class, he dedicated himself to the whole school. When senior Alex Castaneda arrived at SPHS in 10th grade, he was nervous, as many transfer students are. But at the end of 10th grade he did a talk at TedX. Afterwards, Mr. Asher came up to him and the two immediately started bonding.
“He said to me, ‘your accent is a bit heavy, we got to get rid of that’ and he helped me become more of a public speaker. He was a coach for his ELD students–he was so kind…. He helped them reach their potential. He was genuine, kind, and inspiring. He still had so much hope and passion ,“ said Castaneda.
Mr. Asher’s passing created a void at South Pasadena, but his presence was one of warmth, support, positivity, and kindness. It’s important that we remember what he taught, not just English but passion and dedication and the pursuit of the things that make you happy above all else.