Staying Out of Jail with Mr. Lopez


Gabriel Davidson, Editor

“He’s a great coach, and he’s really good at soccer. And a really great goalkeeper. He stepped in during practice and everyone was in awe,” says Lia Ghirardi, Sahuaro goalkeeper and Paper Cut Editor-in-Chief, about James Lopez, resident science teacher and boys’ soccer coach.  Fellow teacher Ms. Lange also admires his dedication. “I asked him why he was chaperoning the Freshman Social since he wasn’t a class sponsor, and he replied ‘I just like to be involved.’  I love that about him – he truly enjoys being around our students and willingly steps up to help out all the time.”  James Force, a sophomore in his class, stated, “He’s funny, nice, and doesn’t overload you.” Lopez ends class most days with his signature catchphrase: “Stay outta’ jail!” Lopez, one of Sahuaro’s most treasured teachers, isn’t just about having a great rapport with students, but he is also a parent of three and a shining example at that.

Prior to teaching at Sahuaro, Lopez spent 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, finding himself stationed in such countries as Iraq, Honduras, and Germany — where he met his wife, who teaches Physical Education at Tucson High. Germany isn’t the only European nation he’s been to, however. Having, very clearly, retained his military discipline in staying in top shape, one can hardly find themselves surprised that he’s run the Luxembourg and Paris Marathons, among five others. Lopez says, “I can do a standing backflip… I think,” just in case running grueling marathons doesn’t seem like enough of a physical feat in itself. Lopez is a certified personal trainer with a penchant for outdoor adventures – he has a passion for climbing, swimming, and getting his hands dirty (in the Great Outdoors!). All this in addition to a love for musicals (“my guilty pleasure” he jokes), leftover cold pizza, and Phineas and Ferb. Talk about cultured!

Mr. Lopez is a father of three, two boys and one daughter, who is trans. Although it may have come as a surprise at first, Lopez says the more he thought of it, the more it clicked, especially when he thought about what she had said when she was very young. Lopez, for example, noticed she never liked getting her hair cut. His other two children, sixteen and twenty years old respectively, were very accepting, alongside nearly all of her extended family. However, Lopez did go on to say, “Some extended family members that are very set in their beliefs attempted to provide advice on how to convince her that she was wrong in what she was doing.” As for her friends and school community, Sabino, according to Lopez, was surprisingly supportive. “Because it’s becoming more accepted, that comes with stronger opposition, but it will trend to more tolerance. The biggest thing is that people aren’t informed or familiar with what it means to be trans and what it looks like inside an individual going through that, and because people don’t understand it, they tend to apply their own beliefs onto it and [those beliefs] can be negative.” His daughter, who came out publicly at seventeen, would like to go into behavioral health to help struggling teens.

“It’s been a rollercoaster and it can be tough,” says Lopez. “The most important thing is to remember mental health and well-being and the safety of children is the most important thing, and supporting them through their self-discovery is crucial in that. Whether talking about trans youth or the population in general, we don’t understand the trials people go through on a daily basis, which is why kindness should be our initial go-to when dealing with anyone.”

Suffice it to say, whether you’re in class, at practice, at the Freshman Social, or a part of his family, Lopez is there to support you. Who wouldn’t want a little help from someone whose Toyota Tercel Hatchback “Betsy” was voted “Worst Car” at his high school?

…And remember readers…”Stay outta’ jail!”