The Who Behind the WOW


Mr. Wipachit at the 2018 Pep Rally.

Keilyn Torres

Most incoming freshman find high school intimidating. They must start from scratch and find new friends, new hobbies, and adapt to a new school. Imagine coming into a different country and in addition to finding new friends and hobbies you must learn a new language. Not only must you adapt to high school, but you must adapt to an unknown country.

Phoenix Military Academy’s principal Mr. Wipachit emigrated from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States where he was enrolled in high school.

“It’s a process, it took about four or five years for me to be comfortable with English,” said Mr. Wipachit.

He knows that being an immigrant helps him not only relate to many parents, but also to many Phoenix students. He understands the struggle that immigrant high school students face daily because of their citizenship. This is something many principals wouldn’t be able to relate to.

After high school, Mr. Wipachit or Mr. Wip as the students call him, joined ROTC at University of Illinois at Chicago. He proudly shows a picture in his office from ROTC where he graduated as a Second Lieutenant. He says his years in ROTC taught him about leadership, articulation, and virtues that he continues to carry. After college he attended a specialized Quartermaster school in Fort Lee, Virginia where he graduated as a first Lieutenant in 1986.

In 1992 he became a teacher at Tilden High School where he taught classes such as Chemistry, Physics and AP Biology for many years.

I’m able to connect to the civilian teachers because I know what they’re looking for and I can also relate to ROTC because I was one of them, ”

— Mr. Wipachit

Not only can he relate to the staff, but also to the parents. Mr. Wip also has a daughter who attends high school. He has even taken Spanish classes in order to be able to communicate with Phoenix parents more efficiently.

He admitted that in the beginning it was never planned for him to be a principal. He had intended to become a counselor. However, after some encouragement from the former principal at Taft, he began taking some leadership classes. He then became the bilingual coordinator for Taft’s principal when he became Chief Officer.

After this he became an assistant principal at Juarez High School for two and a half years before he got offered the position at Foreman College and Career Academy. He stayed at Foreman for another two and a half years before the position at Phoenix opened up.

“It’s rare for a person to apply to a job and get it right away. I just went for the experience, and next thing you know I’m here,” said Wip.

He said that when he first arrived at Phoenix in 2004, it was a very bad school where violence was the number one problem inside and outside of the building. Throughout the years, the school has improved and eventually reached Level 1+ status. The most recent accolade was being named #1 in Chicago by the Chicago Magazine

Mr. Wip has been recognized by many important people including the mayor. He has even been asked to mentor many soon-to-be principals.

However, Mr. Wip says that Phoenix is not done here, he still has many plans for the school to keep improving.