There’s More to Ms. Hager Than You Know


Carly Hernandez, Contributor

About 150 students each year take Ms. Hager’s freshman and sophomore English classes, and many people know she cares deeply about the subjects she teaches. She roams the class as her students are working, answering any questions they might have. Her students can’t help but be engaged in the work she assigns. A lot of them say she is a good teacher and warm person, but few know much more about her. Few know that it is because of the challenges in her life that she has become such a caring and passionate teacher. 

Her compassion and determination for everyone she interacts with was described by Shaun Bond, another English teacher at San Rafael High School (SRHS) who has known her from the very beginning of her SRHS teaching career which was 14 years ago. Mr. Bond describes her as being an “open hearted, generous, funny, open minded, patient” individual who “cares about people.” 

Hager found her love of teaching when she was in college. She says, “I was working on a master’s degree in Spanish and was assigned to teach undergraduate entry-level Spanish at UC Davis. … I fell in love with … the connection that happens between student and teacher. I experienced that position as a true calling.” 

Because Ms. Hager has these gifts, she has been able to make a huge impact on many students’ lives. Suliban Gramajo, a current senior at SRHS, learned from Ms. Hager that “it’s okay to make mistakes and ask questions,” which can be hard for many students to do. Gramajo says that Ms. Hager shows her honesty and warmth by how “sensitive” she is and showing that she is “not afraid to show her emotions” when it comes to students and faculty. She is open to talking about sensitive things. When it comes to students struggling with any issue, Gramajo adds that “she is aware about what students are going through and is able to sympathize with them.”

This is what Ms. Hager does best at SRHS: she connects and helps guide students and teachers. Sulema Vazquez, a SRHS senior, was able to talk to Ms. Hager last year about a teacher close to her who passed away. During this tough time, Hager “would always check up on me. She helped me remember the happy thoughts and told me grief comes in waves, and if waves ever hit me, I could go talk to her.”

Ms. Hager’s ability to lend students a hand is also seen by Colleen Conradi, an alumnus of the class of 2017. Conradi is currently a junior at the University of California-San Diego and had Ms. Hager during her freshman year. There, she was able to talk to her about her hardships. However, it wasn’t until Conradi’s senior year when Ms. Hager became a “really prominent figure” in her life. Conradi’s hardships had taken a big turn and she turned to Ms. Hager as an individual she could confide in. Colleen says she “had quite the commute to school and back in addition to significant issues at home,” so Ms. Hager opened the doors to her home for Conradi. 

Today, Cynthia Hager teaches English and the ELD classes at SRHS. She has taught these classes for the past fourteen years. She was born in 1960 in San Diego, California, where she lived with her sister, mother and father until she was 11 years old. Her mother was American/Norwegian and her father was an immigrant from Colombia. Life for Ms. Hager as a child was challenging at times since her parents had many differences which “added tension to [her] childhood as both understood the world from very different backgrounds and perspectives.” Her father had the idea that life was all about “having fun” and would consistently throw parties for any reason. Her mother, on the other hand, was “serious” and believed that “having fun” should occur if there was a motive to celebrate. 

Despite the tension she faced as a child, her parents have taught her the importance of family. She stated that “even when parents see things differently, or can’t agree on the basics, there is value in holding a marriage together.” This was something Ms. Hager believed dearly until she faced a life-changing experience. 

Ms. Hager was divorced and was left to raise two children on her own. Through this tough period, Ms. Hager did not let this event affect her life, especially since it affected the value of family she had learned from her parents. Despite this changing shift in her life, Hager was determined to succeed on her own with the mentoring and guidance of strong women who helped her “navigate through new territory in life.” She would consistently live up to her motto “never give up” because if she ever thought about giving up, she then questioned herself,  “If I give up, what then?”

During her divorce, she found strength from her friend Deborah Santana who gave her “encouragement and strength” to re-create a good life for herself as a single woman. Through Ms. Hager’s adventure on her new journey, she met Lois Lane, her therapist. Hagar said that Lane helped “sort out in my mind conflicts so that I can create new and better habits and responses to conflict.”

Hager also describes how she is also inspired by her own students, especially those who are immigrants. She says, “My ELD immigrant students may have taught me the most. They have unimaginable courage and have acted on their dreams. They have faced their fears, accepted change as a necessity to realizing a dream, and have shown resilience in the face of new and continued hardships. And they’ve done this all in their youth and with a sense of humor most of the time.” 

Her students are equally inspired by her. Conradi says, “Hager has definitely inspired me. Eventually I plan on becoming a high school English teacher and it was teachers like her that really influenced that decision for me. I was beyond lucky to have such amazing teachers in my time at SRHS.”