By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
High school film instructor Malia Jakus moved to Los Angeles with two decades of teaching experience under her belt in the hopes of inspiring Palisades Charter High School students to become the next generation of filmmakers.
“So far, Pali’s been great,” Jakus shared with the Palisadian-Post at the end of the 2019-20 school year. “I feel so supported by everyone—the community, parents, admin and students—which is something I’m super grateful for because I think it’s tough being the new kid.”
She noted that the Stay at Home order and closure of the campus added a bit of a hiccup to her plans for the students, but typically the film class at Pali High will produce 12 pieces in a year.
“Even at this point, the students have grown leaps and bounds,” Jakus shared about students learning technical film skills. “A lot of it is by doing project-based learning, by making all of these films. When I looked at the first films they turned in and what they are doing now, it’s amazing.”
Jakus explained that her goal as a teacher is to see growth with her students, no matter where they started in their filmmaking abilities—beginner, intermediate or advanced.
Jakus started a Pali Film YouTube channel, which she plans to use as a platform for a digital film festival. On the channel, there is a montage from 2019-20 students’ perspectives with what they were going through with online learning and social distancing measures.
“We have finished our video diaries project and a video montage from the teacher, admin, staff and a parent perspective,” Jakus said. “When I saw how thoughtful the student diaries were, I reached out to the staff and parents to see if anybody wanted to record a message for the students.”
The student video diaries project was featured on NBC. One of the videos on the channel is reporter Patrick Healy’s news piece that was filmed over the 2020 spring break and aired in the first week of April.
At the start of the 2019-20 academic year in August, Pali High welcomed Jakus to the faculty. She shared that over the past 20 years, she has taught a variety of courses, usually in the electives, including film, broadcasting, photography, art and drama.
After living in the Bay Area for six years and teaching filmmaking, Jakus moved to LA for the very first time and began her position at Pali High.
She received her master’s degree in motion pictures and television from the Academy of Art University in 2018. While she was there, she produced short films and won a university award in graduate school for her screenwriting.
Born in Hawaii, Jakus has lived and traveled to many locations during her lifetime. She earned her undergraduate degree at Bradley University while in Peoria, Illinois, in the mid-’90s. Then, she moved to Dallas, Texas, where she taught students and became certified as a teacher.
After learning that her salary would not give her the opportunities she wanted to see the world, she decided to teach internationally.
Jakus taught the English-speaking children of military personnel at schools in Keflavik, Iceland, and Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. Her last international destination was Vilseck, in the Bavarian region of Germany, before relocating to the Bay Area. She taught all levels.
Jakus follows the longtime legacy of film teacher Kerry Feltham.
“I’m grateful he left a lot of really good stuff,” Jakus shared. “I found some gems in there when I was digging around.”
At the start of the school year, the Pali High Booster Club contributed a grant to help Jakus add 12 Canon Rebel T6 DSLR cameras to its department.
“We wanted to welcome this new teacher to Pali and make sure she had the right equipment to benefit the students,” Booster Club President Dick Held told the Post on behalf of the club.
Jakus shared that the film program at Pali High may expand in the future and add a Filmmaking 2 class that would work in conjunction with a production class called PTV.
“The most important thing I feel about the film program is that we are doing all aspects of filmmaking,” Jakus added. “This includes cinematography, composition, setting up your shots, how to film and how to direct, and running the whole gamut of what it takes to collaboratively make a film.”
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