Teachers on the move
Written by Eileen Qian, Emily Yao, Erica Lee, Stephanie Zhang, Wayland Fong, Wonhee Park
Science teacher Bakari Holmes, who taught physics, astronomy, Introduction to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics and the Robotics Team for five years is leaving Gunn for San Jose High School (SJHS). For years, Holmes has been working on Project Lead The Way (PLTW) which promotes scientific learning. According to Holmes, the program has not been as successful as he expected it to be. “I have goals that I want to accomplish that I no longer believe can be accomplished here,” he said. “Starting and teaching the PLTW classes have lit a fire in my belly that cannot be quenched.” Thus next year, Holmes will become a PLTW teacher at SJHS, where he feels the program has more significant support. He hopes to encourage excellence by teaching engineering training courses and advocating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. “I plan on being a part of transforming the culture of an urban school to become a place where STEM education is a priority and students are given a rigorous STEM-flavored education that prepares them for the jobs of the 21st century,” Holmes said.
Some teachers foresaw Holmes’ leaving. “It is not a surprise to me in the context of his involvement with the PLTW program,” Ledgerwood said. “Several schools in the Bay Area hold this program as a centerpiece to their instruction and by going to another school district, Holmes will have the opportunity to fully immerse himself in all the richness that the program has to offer.” Other teachers feel that Holmes’s departure jeopardizes the success of the engineering programs at Gunn. “The kinds of things that [Holmes] teaches are not often found in high school and are valuable higher-order thinking,” Paley said. “Our internal competency will be lost, and I’m worried about finding an adequate replacement.”
Deciding to leave was a difficult choice for Holmes. “I remember the roars of the crowd and palpable excitement of performing at night rallies,” he said. “I remember many heart-to-heart talks with students trying to connect with them, inspire them and help them calm down. Most of all, I will always remember pink sheets, walking it out, trolling my students, assigning insane projects in engineering and seeing my students blossom like little rose buds.”
Math teacher Rachel Grunsky is moving back to live with her family in Bakersfield at the end of the school year. There, she will continue to teach new students math. During her five years on campus, Grunsky taught Algebra 2, Geometry/Algebra 2, Introductory Analysis & Calculus, Analysis Honors and AP AB Calculus.
Grunsky will continue to pass down her knowledge at a new school, Mira Monte High School, where she will teach Algebra 1 and CAHSEE-level math.
Grunsky enjoyed working with many motivated students and being involved in the Gunn community and culture. “When I leave Gunn, I will definitely miss certain events like the choir-staff musical,” she said.
According to junior Yannie Yip, Grunsky’s teaching style has allowed her to enjoy math class a lot. “She is very clear and to-the-point when it comes to explanations, and her little humor here and there makes the class really delightful,” she said. “Math has never been my favorite subject but she makes it fun and manageable.”
Yip believes Grunsky truly cares about her students and always tries to help and accommodate to their needs. “It’s sad to see such an amazing teacher leave Gunn, but I wish her all the best in her next place in life,” she said.
Senior Yan Jia has learned a lot from being Grunsky’s teaching assistant and has developed a close relationship with her. “Ms. Grunsky is passionate about teaching and always attempts to create more engaging and interesting lesson plans,” she said. “I was asked to try her new lesson plan and provided her with comments. Ms. Grunsky really appreciates my comments, hoping to eliminate all the confusions in the new lesson plan.”
According to Jia, Grunsky is a very optimistic person, and always brings energy and happiness to her in class. “I will miss Ms. Grunsky’s smiling face and her optimistic personality,” Jia said. “She is definitely an inspiring teacher.”
Grunsky urges students to explore their passions. “My final advice to students at Gunn is to take fewer AP classes,” she said. “Take the time to find out what you love and have fun.”
At the end of the year, math teacher Stephanie Werbe will be moving back to her hometown, Laguna Beach. After an opportunity for her husband to relocate to Southern California arose, she and her husband jumped at the chance to move back and to be closer to family. “I am excited about being back in my hometown and being surrounded by my family and good friends,” Werbe said.
When Werbe was a long-term substitute she taught Algebra 1/Geometry. As a full time teacher she taught Geometry/Algebra 2 Advanced, Algebra/Trigonometry Advanced and Algebra 1 Advanced. Next year she will be teaching at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano. The classes she will be teaching are Algebra 2 and Advanced Placement and Calculus AB.
These years have taught her various lessons about herself, and how to be a better teacher. “Teaching definitely teaches you to have more patience,” Werbe said. “Some qualities have come forth more than others.”
Students enjoy the comfortable environment Werbe creates in her classes. “Every day I look forward to going to MA-9 and enjoying a fun math class,” sophomore Ryan Spain said.
Werbe plans on teaching at a school that has similar values as Gunn. “I hope that the next school I go to will have the same accepting staff and students, and that they’ll have programs like Not In Our School’s week and ROCK,” she said.
Werbe enjoyed the supportive atmosphere on campus and will miss Gunn. Some of her most cherished moments at Gunn were the staff airbands and the staff softball game. “I’ll miss a lot of my students, definitely my math colleagues,” Werbe said. Werbe was the facilitator for a professional development group, and the club adviser for two student clubs.
Many students are disappointed that she is leaving. “I’m really sad that she’s leaving because I was hoping to have her in the future,” sophomore Raina Yusufovo said.
Werbe feels her greatest contribution is related to her students. “[My biggest acheivement was] getting to know my students outside of the classroom and helping them get through daily struggles by offering my time, help and advice,” she said. “My goal as an educator is to be an adult whom my students can trust.”
Specialized Core Program teacher Katherine Byrne is retiring after 16 years of teaching at Gunn. She has had extensive teaching experience in many subjects including English, World History, Contemporary World/Government, U.S. History, Economics and Algebra.
Although she started off as an English teacher, her interests changed once she experienced teaching students coming out of juvenile hall. It was there that she found her passion in the special education field. Byrne got her special education credentials at San Jose State and started her work at Gunn in 1996.
Byrne taught a majority of younger kids during her teaching career, but she described the transition teaching upperclassmen at Gunn to be new and refreshing. Byrne says her teaching experience here at Gunn has been rewarding and positive. “My experience at Gunn has been amazing,” Byrne said. “The staff is great and works well together.” Byrne has been teaching at Gunn for long enough to have seen many changes on campus, including that of the technological transition in teaching methods. “Now the [educational] videos can actually be coordinated with what you are teaching at the time you are teaching it, and it’s so much better now,” Byrne said.
Byrne is constantly amazed at the variety of activites and classes at Gunn. She hopes to keep in touch after her time here so that the enjoyable atmosphere of Gunn will stay with her. “I plan to keep checking the Gunn homepage and maybe watch TBN [Titan Broadcast Network] on the computer,” Byrne said.
Byrne believes that she learned the most from her students, who, according to her, taught her a variety of life lessons. “I’ll miss my students the most,” Byrne said. “They are such interesting people.”
Byrne’s teaching and efforts to reach out and connect with her students have made a huge impact on them. “I’m going to miss her talks and the close relationship we had,” senior Shelby Sanders said.
Byrne’s colleagues praise her ability to connect with students. “She’s always very well prepared and understands her children,” Byrne’s aid Auma Pascal said. Her dedication to Gunn and her work with her students will remain an important and cherished part of Gunn history.
After 32 years of teaching, English teacher Angela Dellaporta will be retiring. Throughout her time at Gunn, Dellaporta has taught a variety of English classes including Mythology, Philosophy and Contemporary Heritage. After retiring, Dellaporta plans to spend her time refurbishing an old family farm and taking care of her elderly parents.
Dellaporta will never forget the cheerful times that she has had at Gunn. “I am definitely going to miss the energy of my students,” she said. “I just love teenage energy. It’s so full of life and so engaging, even though it’s very difficult to control sometimes.”
Dellaporta loves when her students are engaged in class discussions. “My absolute best times here have been when my students have been so interested in discussing in class that they can’t resist sticking around after class to continue the conversation,” she said.
Dellaporta first took the teaching job at Gunn because it seemed like a straightforward task. However, after years of teaching, she now has a very different viewpoint. “Teaching has reinforced my belief that that you can bring out the best in everyone, because, essentially, that is my job,” Dellaporta said. “We’re not really just teaching literary style, all teachers are teaching students how to live their lives.”
Although she will not be physically on the campus, Dellaporta believes that the lessons she has learned here will always stay with her. “None of my students or colleagues here at Gunn ever set out to teach me a lesson,” Dellaporta said, “but through my experience here, I have learned more than I could ever imagine.”
After retiring, Dellaporta plans to change her life path in order to spend more time with her family. She also plans to explore new hobbies in many different fields, “I’ve always found music so beautiful,” Dellaporta said, “so after I retire, I will probably pick up some instrument.” Dellaporta also has plans to visit Greece more often, a country that she has always admired and adored.
Dellaporta has loved every moment here at Gunn, and she knows that she will miss it immensely. “Teaching is the kind of job where you’re never just sitting back, you’re always learning, and that’s what makes it exciting and wonderful.”
Custodian Roy Pascual
Custodian Roy Pascual left Gunn at the end of the first semester, after having problems with his knee. Rather than risking injury, he decided to retire at the age of 60. Due to Pascual’s middle-of-the-year departure, The Oracle was not able to contact him directly for this article\.
Pascual’s time at Gunn has surpassed the tenure of most teachers, leaving a legacy of 19 years behind. Co-worker and head custodian Luciano Hernandez remembers Pascual’s friendliness and prudence. “He was a good worker: quiet, hard-working. He got along with everybody,” Hernandez said.
At Gunn, he shared his love for food with his co-workers. “He was quiet and shy, except when you talked about food,” Hernandez said. “He would always ask me if we could barbecue today or tomorrow or pitch in [for food]. He loved to barbecue, and he loved eating food, especially fish,” Hernandez said. On Pascual’s birthday every year, he would buy his fellow coworkers dinner instead of expecting to receive gifts. Co-worker Antonio Peterson said, “That’s how he celebrated his birthday, and I thought that was very unique about a person. Instead of us giving him something, he’d reverse it.” Every year, for 19 years, Pascual and his coworkers would feast on the Kentucky Fried Chicken that Pascual brought in.
While many may only know him as a hardworking custodian, Pascual spent much of his time helping the community as well. “He loved to help people, especially his community,” Peterson said. “He worked here. He loved to help here, but he also liked to help the elderly, give them food and go to churches and get extra food and deliver it to people that he knew needed food to eat. He was a nice humanitarian, and overall, he was a caring person.”
Pascual even found a way to use his custodial work to help others. “He would find clothes that were left behind that nobody claimed, and he would clean it, wash it and send it back home to the Philippines and just give it to people,” Hernandez said.
Pascual’s impact at Gunn will be greatly missed by his peers. “Just being with him is the thing I miss the most,” Hernandez said. “Because after working here with somebody for 13 years, it was just his presence. It makes you wonder what he’s doing.”