Faculty Friday: Paul Flores — Businessman-Turned-Educator Shares Passion for Teaching and Life Beyond the Classroom

by Megan Wilhelm

When Paul Flores, PhD, attended the University of Southern California as an undergraduate, life was all about hustle and productivity. As a student studying business, Flores never thought he would end up teaching. However, after nearly 26 years at Azusa Pacific University, and five years with the School of Education, Flores has no doubt that God guided his every step.

Flores’s hard work in college landed him a job in the business world, but he soon faced ethical dilemmas in the industry and left in search of something more aligned with his personal convictions. Flores turned to seminary, believing ministry alongside his father was the next step. While earning his MDiv, Flores’s uncle and mentor introduced him to teaching by offering him a position as a middle school substitute teacher. Soon after, Flores began a long-term substitute position, which led to full-time teaching. Eager to be better equipped to serve his students well, Flores, whose wife went to APU, began taking night classes at the school to earn his teaching credential.

After a few years of teaching at APU as an adjunct professor, Flores took a leap of faith and accepted a full-time position, developing a strong passion for educating college students in a Christ-like manner. “We integrate faith through the principle that every student deserves a highly-qualified teacher,” Flores said. “They are created, so they deserve value, recognition, and dignity.”

A professional highlight is the work Flores does through the College Headed and Mighty Proud (CHAMP) program. APU has partnered with Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) since 1991 on this initiative. Through Flores’s efforts, the program was adopted as a part of the service learning experience for students enrolled in the course. Flores loves seeing the relationships between his college students and young pupils blossom. “Having the fourth grade students on APU’s campus looking up to our students as big brothers and sisters has been a really meaningful experience,” said Flores.

Fourth graders also participate in a graduation ceremony at the end of the CHAMP program. Parents come and see their children walk across the stage to receive a certificate acknowledging all they’ve accomplished over the 10 weeks of CHAMP. “Those are some of my favorite moments,” Flores said, who always wears his cap and gown on these celebratory evenings. “It’s just a certificate, but it’s a big deal for these students and parents. There’s a great chance that some of those fourth graders will be back at APU eight years later.”

Along with the hands-on side of the course, Flores also enjoys teaching the theory. The course not only includes the concepts of cultural diversity, but also emphasizes the reason for studying them in the first place.

“Why do we teach? We teach because those students are created in the image of God and that’s who God loves through Jesus Christ,” Flores said.

As an educator, Flores keeps God at the center of his practice. “We all have that common tie of being human beings who have the opportunity to receive grace. That informs my teaching.”

Flores is grateful for a student body at APU that values community, connection, and life beyond the classroom. “One thing I really appreciate about teaching at a Christian university is that it’s so much more relational. It’s a spiritual experience,” Flores said. He encourages students to slow down and embrace their college experience. “Value the moment. Live in the present,” he said. “See God in this season and make every day count.”

Megan Wilhelm '23 is a public relations intern in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement.