Sean Blumenthal was in between jobs as a video editor and producer in 2002.
On a clear night that year, Blumenthal, who is interested in astronomy, made his way with a friend up to Mount Pinos, a local mountain in the Los Padres National Forest, to stargaze with more than 100 other amateur astronomers, many of whom were using expensive equipment.
A group of Girl Scouts working on their astronomy badges approached some of the stargazers, hoping to look through their superior telescopes, but they were turned away.
Blumenthal called the girls over so they could use his scope.
“I kind of intentionally brought my outreach telescope that I didn’t mind if other people used,” the Cal State Northridge grad said, adding that he allowed the girls to adjust the knobs so they could gain hands-on experience.
Blumenthal, 40, was just being nice, but his friend saw a career in the making.
“My friend said, ‘I think you should be a teacher,’ and I kind of just laughed it off.”
But then Blumenthal decided to look into what was required to earn a teaching credential. He learned his old college stomping grounds offered a program.
“Somehow that made it really tangible and safe. The next day I got in the car and drove to Cal State Northridge, walked on campus and over to the education department.”
He filled out the necessary paperwork the same day.
“I remember I walked off with a little spring in my step,” said Blumenthal, who had worked in the film industry for a decade. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I remember thinking I’ll enroll and start taking classes because I loved education in general and being in an environment where learning was going on.”
The outcome: Blumenthal earned his credential and has taught earth and physical science for the past nine years and multimedia classes for five of those years at Channel Islands High School. Now he will head the arts and entertainment academy at Rancho Campana High School, set to open in August 2015.
RCHS will also have an engineering academy and a health and biological sciences academy.
Channel Islands Principal Maricruz Hernandez said she was sad when she heard Blumenthal would be transferring, but she also believes he is the “perfect person to lead an academy.”
“(It’s) a big loss to Channel Islands,” she said. “He’s a dedicated instructor . . . passionate about teaching. When I heard he was transferring, I told him he couldn’t leave. We will miss him at CI.”
For Blumenthal, who lives in Camarillo with his wife, Angela, and children, Jason, 14; Lynda, 12; and Jolie, 6 months, the new role was pure serendipity.
“It’s kind of coming full circle,” he said. “I started out with a media career and now I’ll be this media coordinator.”
In his new role, Blumenthal will create a curriculum and ensure teachers are suitable to teach it. He will also oversee the academy, which will focus on traditional classes, including music and dance, as well as multimedia, like Web design and video editing.
“Even though my strong point is video, film or music, I’m also the coordinator for dance,” he said. “Working in entertainment and the business, I understand it and have been around it. It’s not foreign to me.”
In his decade in the film business, Blumenthal worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Paramount and Disney. He spent three of those years working in TV but said the work is not consistent.
“That’s the way it is in the business. You go from production to production and just keep going around like that.”
He worked his way up to director of video and multimedia at Lynda.com, a site that offers video tutorials, where he remained for nearly six years. He briefly returned to television before leaving the film business altogether.
“I always loved the creation of film, music and editing, but what I disliked about the business was the business . . . the people turned me off,” he said.
Now a veteran educator, Blumenthal is focused on the details that come with opening a school.
He’ll help with decisions like whether the school will have bells to mark the start and end of classes or a silent system like a college campus, and what kinds of televisions to have in class.
Most important for Blumenthal, opening RCHS is an opportunity to create a high school like no other.
“We’re basically creating a private-school experience but at a public-school cost for Camarillo,” he said. “This is a chance to do something different than we have ever done in OUHSD before. This is the chance to break the conception of what school has to be like.”