The first thing you might want to know about Mr. Bilandzija is how to pronounce his name. Boasting a career as long as his last name, he has been teaching for over sixteen years, teaching kids from all ages, but has primarily focused on teaching middle schoolers and high schoolers. He started his teaching career in San Francisco, but moved to Los Angeles after a year, spending his career most recently at the Odyssey Charter School in Altadena. Now, joining us at La Canada High School, he will be teaching English 1 and 4, as well as Speech & Debate.
Mr. Bilandzija has always had an interest in English, but his love for the language didn’t blossom until college.
“In college, I had some English professors who ignited the passion in me and showed me what the subject can do in terms of getting myself and my students to think critically and to ponder the great questions of life. English is a subject that what you do in this class and the kinds of skills you develop transfer over to every other discipline and every other subject,” he said.
Interdisciplinarity is something Mr. Bilandzija is extremely passionate about. He loves to combine two or more academic subjects into one big activity. In fact, at the previous school he taught at, he helped start the Edible Schoolyard Program. This program allowed students to come to a garden where teachers would teach whatever seemed most appropriate at the time. A lot of science and math would be involved, but subjects such as theater, poetry, art, and even movie making would flourish in the gardens.
“I used it as sort of a lab to experiment with the kind of teaching that I believe is possible, which isn’t always in a classroom setting. Learn through nature, learn through observation, and learn through cooperation.”
When asked if he’s willing to create an environment like that here at LCHS, he responded enthusiastically, “It’s something I could dive back into. I feel like I’m never going to turn away if an opportunity presents itself.”
Mr. Bilandzija has a lot of hobbies that he enjoys. He loves to play tennis, hang out with his three children, and cook. But, the one activity that Mr. Bilandzija seems to enjoy the most is woodworking. He has recently made some incredible goods such as shelves for his three children made from redwood fences to a pinball machine made from reclaimed nuts and bolts. It requires absolutely no electricity, as it runs 100% on springs and levers installed within the machine.
Mr. Bilandzija is new to this school, but already feels at home.
“I wanted to teach at a school like La Canada, where it seems like it is a community within a community. Like a little city in itself. I wanted to be with the department and the intellectual challenge La Canada brings.”