Coming Back Home: Principal Murata and Mr. Banim
June 16, 2022
High school is where most students begin to learn about themselves and find their passions. Teachers, especially, find their inspiration and love for the school environment during those years. Principal Murata and Mr. Banim are just two of the West High staff members who were once Warriors themselves. Luckily for us, they decided to return to their alma mater to serve the school that once served them.
Although Mr. Banim, our current band director, had only been a West student in his senior year as a part of the class of 1980, he had quite a full and unique experience in West’s band, jazz band, and drama programs. What sets his experience apart is the fact that his father was his band director. He humorously noted that he “had to be a little more perfect than normal,” but that “it wasn’t much of a problem” because of his strong commitment to band. His love for the activities that he was involved in taught him the importance of “enjoying what you have” as a high school student and “remembering to smell the roses” instead of just “checking off the boxes.”
As a director, he tries to uphold his father’s legacy in trying “to continue that tradition that [his dad] has left while tweaking it to make it a little more [his],” although he found that he is beginning to enjoy much of the same things that his father had.
Similar to Mr. Banim, Principal Murata (class of 1992), was an active member in many school extracurriculars. She was the captain of the drill team and a four-year member of ASB, even fittingly becoming ASB president in her senior year. She noted that some of the biggest changes that have occurred in both programs were the expansion of opportunities. For example, the separation of Class Council and ASB allowed more students to participate in school leadership. As a student, Principal Murata also helped start the first co-ed dance team at West, even inviting many athletes to take part. Being a part of these programs allowed her to create long-lasting friendships that she maintains to this day.
Despite her deep involvement, she understood that many of her classmates had not found school programs that they felt strongly about. As a result, she regards it as her duty now to “figure out ways to make sure that students are connected so that they can all feel pride in our school and maintain a sense of school spirit and community.” She found that West has evolved over time thanks to the fact that “our teachers are lifelong learners” that have grown with the changes in standards. These efforts, Principal Murata explained, have helped “close the gap between our high achieving students and those who might struggle a little bit.” She especially highlighted how Warrior Workshops and Opportunity classes have been implemented over time to give more support for students that needed it. She felt that it was a part of her job to make sure more students find success, no matter their starting point.
Mr. Banim also found massive growth in our school. Unlike Principal Murata, the biggest changes that he had seen were in West’s social climate. Torrance residents were predominantly white when he was a student. The lack of cultural diversity often led to “less understanding and less tolerance,” but since then, West has grown into a more loving and accepting place where more and more students can freely express themselves.
It is, at the end of the day, the faculty and staff that continue to make West such a high-performing school. Principal Murata said it best: “The fact that we do have . . . people who are a product of this school has made it so that we make adjustments in the right ways. We made progress, but at the same time, we’ve upheld that same standard and tradition of excellence that the school has always had.” Their stay at West is what makes West the school that it is today, and their commitment to our school and its students has only made us stronger.