The end of the 2011-12 school year not only marked San Gabriel Mission High School’s 60th graduation ceremony held at the historic San Gabriel Playhouse, but it also marked the one-year anniversary of faculty member Christopher Landinguin’s stroke.But through self-determination and the motivation of his students, Landinguin — the Fine Arts Chair at the all-girls’ school — came back not only to teach, but to inspire his students.Indeed, this year’s Mission High graduation was extra emotional for many of Landinguin’s students who witnessed his personal struggle, and saw his journey as a metaphor of resolve for their own lives.  “You motivated me to be a person of strength and perseverance,” graduate Caitlynn Smith told Landinguin. “This past year you have showed me that I can overcome any struggle that comes my way. You have inspired me to always live like it is your last day.”A teacher for 20 years in L.A.’s Catholic schools, Landinguin’s stroke in early May of 2011 left him paralyzed on his left side. He underwent extensive physical therapy and enjoyed “dog therapy” with golden retriever Maggie, but “the best therapy,” he says, involved the constant visits from his students which ultimately gave him the incentive to return back to the school. “I looked forward to their visits, and it seemed there was someone there to see me nearly every day,” says Landinguin about his days recovering at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.Landinguin is the Fine Arts Chair and regularly teaches graphic design, media studies (Mission Television), drawing and painting as well as serving as an academic counselor.Recent graduate Stephanie Chavez was one of the first students to visit Landinguin at the hospital. Chavez became one of his strongest supporters, visiting him every day, bringing him homework to grade, helping with therapy, and keeping him company during his one-month hospital stay. She became part of “Team Landinguin,” his stoke recovery support system.Only three weeks after his stroke last year, Landinguin attended the 2011 graduation ceremonies. It took careful maneuvering to get him on stage at the playhouse since he didn’t have full use of his legs; he was eventually carried on stage before the commencement and placed in a chair.When his students saw him at the 2011 graduation, they were elated. A 2011 alumna, Denise Gonzalez said to Landinguin, “You told me just to follow my dreams. Seeing you at our graduation was truly inspiring; we all knew nothing was going to hold you back from showing your support for us. Thank you for being such an awesome teacher and for being an inspiration.”“Mr. Landinguin … always took every negative aspect I saw in myself, made it into a positive one and showed me how it would one day benefit me and make a difference in the world,” adds former student and 2011 alumna Erica Vega. “When I heard about the recovery and improvement from his stroke, I knew that it was his own personal way of doing it to show his past, present and future students that — despite whatever hardships life throws at you — there is never a reason to give up.”Landinguin returned to teaching at Mission High in the fall of 2011. With the help of his wife Sabrina (an English and communications teacher at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks), Landinguin arrived each morning at 6:30 to prepare his lesson plans. “The school is like a family to me; we are very close to one another and care for each other,” he says of his desire to return to the classroom.As the year progressed, Landinguin enlisted the help of his nephew Michael, who is now his “personal trainer.” Once a week, they do their own version of physical therapy on various exercise machines. Michael’s father Fredie (Landinguin’s brother) died from a stroke in 2011.Currently, Landinguin sees improvement in his abilities every day. There is still a struggle with drawing and playing guitar — two of Landinguin’s favorite activities — but he continues to stay positive and focus on gains rather than losses. “I really would like to get the use of my left hand back,” says the naturally left-handed teacher although, because of the stroke, he has learned to use his right hand more.Suffering a stroke has changed Landinguin’s attitudes about daily life. Getting in and out of a car, picking up a pen, writing his name — all these “mundane” activities take on a richer meaning after a stroke, he admits. “I see that I have become more of an advocate for people who are handicapped,” he says.And while Landinguin is looking forward to summer vacation, he is also planning ahead for the next school year. “This year went by so quickly,” he adds.Overcoming all the hurdles he faced on a daily basis, Landinguin continues to inspire his students and encourage them “to be the best that they can be.” He reminds himself and his students that a positive mind can overcome anything.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0622/sglandinguin/{/gallery}