School welcomes science and English teachers

Written by: Shireen Ahsan and Misheel Enkhbat

Ethan Halter

Over winter break, L-4 found a new occupant: English teacher Ethan Halter. Halter has been teaching for six years, and has taught his way around the bay to finally settle in Palo Alto.

Halter grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he attended public school until he switched to attending boarding school Connecticut. It was at boarding school that Halter found his inspiration for teaching. “[Since attending boarding school,] I’ve always known I wanted to be involved in inspiring people,” Halter said.

He and his wife moved from Michigan to California.

Halter majored in comparative literature and religion; however his preference is in the former. “I care a lot about literature,” he said. “Perhaps I care too much.”

Halter’s new co-workers believe that his talent for teaching is promising. “He is very knowledgeable and passionate about literature,” English Instructional Supervisor Ellen Feigenbaum said. “He brings the potential for an interdisciplinary perspective.”

His students have also praised his teaching skill. “I have been in his class for one week, and I have already realized so many new things,” freshman Charlotte Fron said.

Halter’s class is made up of  lectures and discussion, which he believes are the best ways to learn. “[Halter] keeps the class engaged and makes sure to call on as [many] people possible,” Fron said.

Halter finds much of his joy in teaching in his students’ development. “I love seeing students open themselves up to new ideas and new ways of thinking,” he said.

According to Halter, the well-developed student is willing to let go of the need to be right. “A good student must be a critical thinker, but also willing to follow her teacher in a direction that she is uncertain of,” he said. “Such following requires patience and courage because learning something new means confronting confusion, and confusion can be uncomfortable, even scary.”

In the future, Halter hopes to establish his position on campus. He better wishes to learn what students are like outside of the classroom in order to familiarize himself  with the student population.

Aside from English, Halter also enjoys soccer, lacrosse, basketball and camping. Moving here gave him new opportunities to pursue these interests. “One of the awesome things about Palo Alto is all the recreational stuff, like Santa Cruz and the mountains,” he said.

Halter spent last two winters learning how to telemark ski. “I’m really enjoying the challenge of learning something new,” he said.

Timothy Aston

A new face this semester is biology teacher Timothy Aston, who was hired midway through the year because of the departure  of Vashti Srinivas.  Aston is familiar with the Palo Alto Unified School District and has been substituting for a couple of years. This year, however, he has been hired as a temporary teacher until the end of the 2013 school year to teach Biology 1 and Biology 1A. “The students have been phenomenal with the transition from teacher to teacher, and while it’s been challenging coming in mid-year, I wouldn’t change the experience a bit,” he said.

Prior to his teaching, Aston lived in Los Angeles where he worked at Twentieth Century Fox in finance while also studying for his teaching credentials. Aston finds joy in applying his love of science to  teaching.  “My favorite part of teaching is when I see a concept click with a student after wrestling with it,” he said.

Aston already feels comfortable in his new niche. “Gunn so far has been fabulous,” Aston wrote in an email. “I grew up in the area, and went to MVHS (I’ll leave which one a mystery), so I’m in familiar surroundings. All the Gunn staff I’ve interacted with have gone out of their way to be welcoming, and I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to start my teaching career.”

As an understanding teacher, Aston attempts to make every student comfortable. “Being a very introverted person, I was the quiet kid in school—I think I can serve my introverted and extroverted students very well,” he wrote.

Another important attribute of Aston’s is his comedic teaching style gets students interested in the subject matter. “I’m a fairly laidback person, and approach teaching with a sense of humor,” he said. “You don’t have to go far to come up with ridiculous examples of just about any subject in biology, and I try to hook students in with whatever I can find.”

Aside from school and teaching, Aston enjoys fine-tuning his love for music. Though he played cello throughout high school, he now spends his free time practicing guitar. Photography, another hobby, takes up a good amount of his free time. “I usually take landscape photos in national parks, primarily Yosemite,” he said.

He also enjoys playing tennis with his wife, which he relates back to his experience with badminton. “I remember being soundly beaten in the Gunn gym when playing Badminton for MVHS,” he wrote. Gaming ,a hobby that appeals to a wide range of Gunn students, is another beloved pastime of Aston’s.

Aston’s passion for science truly shines through in his day-to-day teaching style. “People are curious about their surroundings from a young age,” he said. “Helping to bring more young adults into scientific literacy is something I feel passionate about.”

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