What It Was, Is, and Should Be

Next year several WHS teachers will not return

Nick Fischer, Opinion Editor

At the end of this year, seven of Woodside’s teachers will bid their final farewells to the students, colleagues, various other aspects that build Woodside High School’s community.

A time comes when teachers have to release their students to summer break and wait several months to begin edifying the new batch of young minds nervous for the new school year. However for Mr. Juelsgaard, Mrs. Mendoza, Ms. Hale, Ms. Yeung, Ms. Ke, Ms. Farris, and Mr. Aguilera, this year marks the end of their career, with the exception of Mr. Aguilera who is taking a year leave, at Woodside High School thus far.  The Woodside World reached out to each teacher to ask them about their time at Woodside and what stood out to them. Their responses were distinctively unique but remained thematically similar–a pattern that says a lot about the Woodside High School experience and the type of environment the staff continues to encourage.

Mr. Juelsgaard, a four year-Woodside teacher, is a well-known teacher around Woodside high school. When his name is brought up it is predominantly associated with a positive classroom environment and a charismatic personality. Mr. Juelsgaard teaches history and economics, conducts a Woodside Debate class during sixth period, and also coaches Woodside’s Debate Team.

Mrs. Mendoza is math teacher who values a balance between fairness and strictness. Her math class is a fierce learning environment that supports the growth of student independence and decisiveness. This school year was Mrs. Mendoza’s eleventh year teaching at Woodside.

Ms. Yeung, an advanced biology and AIS (Advanced Integrated Science) teacher, has worked at Woodside since 2008 with a year of absence in 2013 which she approximated to about eight years teaching Woodside High School. The sincerity and pure effort she puts in her work is bound to be admired not only by her colleagues but by her students as well.

Mr. Aguilera, a Woodside teacher of eight years, informs students about the ways of life through his social studies class. He admires his students as they grow and learn to work cooperatively to succeed. Mr. Aguilera values the abilities of his students and pushes them to succeed out of their desire to do so.

Ms. Farris, another leaving teacher, explained ”this year was my first year at Woodside. I taught Spanish part-time and worked with the EL & Special Programs Department part-time at the district office.” Despite leaving Woodside, Ms. Farris will continue working for the Sequoia Union District. “This next year, my role at the district office will become full-time, which is why I am leaving Woodside.”

Unfortunately Ms. Ke and Ms. Hale were unavailable for interviews.

Interestingly enough, however, the interviewed teachers’ answers to “what is the best part about Woodside” were very similar.

“The people! My favorite part of teaching at Woodside has been developing relationships with the students and faculty. I hope to keep many of them in my life for years to come” Mr. Juelsgaard exclaimed.

This sentiment was only echoed by the rest of the teachers interviewed by the woodside world.

“The kids, the students, I just love working with the students here” said Ms. Yeung before she added with witty humor “and I guess I like my colleagues too.”

Because Ms. Mendoza employs a tactic of strict edification, many students will be shocked to find out she actually enjoys their company.

“The kids, the students, they’re cute–they’re fun,” admitted Mrs. Mendoza playfully.

On the other hand, Ms. Farris and Mr. Aguilera took different approaches; Ms. Farris had trouble choosing the best part about Woodside but ultimately took a stance.

“One characteristic that stands out for me, however, is that it’s a kind place for students and employees. Schools, especially high schools, don’t always accomplish this, but I feel like Woodside does a stellar job in this regard,”

Mr. Aguilera, however, expresses his sentiment that Woodside’s best attribute is the diversity it possesses.

“I think the best part of Woodside is the opportunity that it has with diversity,” elaborated Mr. Aguilera.

In the aftermath of such praise comes compassionate criticism. There are somethings that the leaving teachers thought Woodside could improve on in the future.

“Our record in baseball,” Mr. Juelsgaard sarcastically stated before clarifying. “I wish Woodside would do more to promote recycling and other green practices. Students should be better educated about how to be green and the school should have more recycling and compost bins.”

Ms. Yeung seemed to align with what Mr. Juelsgaard hopes to see Woodside improve on.

“Maybe we should start composting, one thing I would hope to see happen soon,” Ms. Yeung stated.

Other criticism like that of Ms. Farris explores a different area of Woodside High School daily life.

“I have concerns about the effect the rotating block schedule has on our students and classes, but I especially worry about its affect on struggling students. I would also like to see 6th and 7th periods less impacted by sports activities,” Ms. Farris elaborated.

However not all criticism is about composting or scheduling. Mrs. Mendoza and Mr. Aguilera had interesting views and points about Woodside’s community.

“I think it has done a good job in unifying us as a campus but I think there is a lot more work to do there,” Mrs. Mendoza said.

Mr. Aguilera elaborated his opinion about the community of Woodside a little further.

While Woodside has great opportunities with its diversity, I don’t think it maximizes the benefits of it. From staff to students to culture of the school, people can learn so much from highlighting and appreciating the diversity, and I do not believe Woodside as a whole does this to the level it should. But I hope that people will continue to seek to reach this level,” Mr. Aguilera explained.

On another positive note, the teachers the Woodside World was able to interview were happy to share the highlights of their careers at Woodside High School. Not surprisingly, many teachers’ highlights at Woodside revolved around edification. Mr. Juelsgaard, for example, had many highlights about his time at Woodside that he was happy to express.

“Teaching Debate & Public Leadership, coaching baseball, and participating in the non-violent demonstration last November,” Mr. Juelsgaard said.

Mrs. Mendoza had similar highlights to Mr. Juelsgaard.

“Working with a variety of students, teaching with a collaborative group of mathematicians, and working with a parent–community group Woodside high school foundation,” Mrs. Mendoza said.

Ms. Farris enthusiastically retold her standout experiences and aspects about Woodside High School.

My absolute favorite part of this past year at WHS has been working with my incredibly talented colleagues in the World Language Department. There is amazing talent and passion for students and teaching in our department, and it saddens me to know I won’t get to see them daily next year,” Ms. Farris explained. “I have also enjoyed immensely watching my students grow in their relationship with Spanish this year. I don’t think they realize just how far they have come this year,” Ms. Farris continued.

Ms. Yeung and Mr. Aguilera mentioned the protest/rally that occurred at Woodside High School initially involving solely students and then teachers instead.

“I think the rally this year after the election was one of the highlights because for the first time I saw the school come together in a really positive way,” Ms. Yeung explained.

Mr. Aguilera reiterated and expanded the thoughts of Ms. Yeung.

“Watching students protest to have their voices heard. I also generally get excited to see my students get into college and graduate. As a XC coach, I also thoroughly enjoyed the end of the season when I could see students who couldn’t run 1 mile non-stop be able to run 5 miles up hills non-stop. Watching people be able to reach their goals has always been my highlights. Also seeing everyone consume cookies on my birthday, that was always fun,” Mr. Aguilera admitted.

With sentiment and compassion, the teachers then elaborated on how they wanted to be remembered by Woodside once they leave at the end of the year.

“I just want them to remember me at all, I’d like to be remembered as a well-meaning teacher who tried to get his students to think critically and to better not only themselves, but also the world around them,” Mr. Juelsgaard explained.

Other words of memorium were short but nevertheless sweet.

“Strict but fair, caring… a good story teller,” Mrs. Mendoza said comically.

Ms. Yeung made a point to express her compassion and consideration for the students she got to teach.

“That I cared about my students and that I did everything I could to support them while I was here,” Ms. Yeung stated.

Mr. Aguilera continued his theme of equality and diversity.

“Someone who wanted and fought for students to be equal in equal opportunities and focus. I wanted everyone to have an equal opportunity and access to the activities, culture, sense of belonging, and post-HS experiences and education,” Mr. Aguilera said.

Ms. Farris took a unique approach. She reminds that her guidance doesn’t have to be gone, rather just an increased distance away.

I want them to remember that I’m just up the street, not gone, and that I’ll be rooting for Woodside wherever I may be. I’m very proud to have been a Wildcat this year,” Ms. Farris added.

In the last question Woodside World asked the teachers were able to leave words of advice to the community of Woodside High School and express, one more time, their experience as a Woodside High School teacher.

What would you like to say to the students of Woodside?

“Take risks… high school is a great time to meet new people and try new things. Develop your hobbies and make lasting relationships. And, more than anything, enjoy your high school experience! It’s over before you know it,” Mr. Juelsgaard exclaimed.

“I would tell them to remember that this whole educational process is supposed to be about giving them the greatest possibility of living life as their best possible selves. It’s not about test scores or future careers. It’s about equipping each individual as best we can to find the highest level of self realization in his or her lifetime. Nothing in the world can give you that like a good education, and nothing in the world can take your education away from you once you have it,” Ms. Farris explained.

“Live life to it’s fullest,” Mrs. Mendoza said.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that I have this box of science, so I would tell the kids make sure you graduate college so you get to see the box of science,” Ms. Yeung stated.

“Get out of your comfort zone, as taking risks is how one grows. You can’t be scared of failure. Also take advantage of the opportunities. Get to know people who do not look like you, come from different culture and background as you, speak differently than you, and live in different neighborhoods. But truly listen to them. Learn from each other. Otherwise you miss out on the greatest lessons and education you can receive,” Mr. Aguilera elaborated.

Mr. Aguilera continued his philosophy by quoting the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

“Also, as my girl, Michelle Obama, said, ‘when you walk through that door of opportunity, do not slam it shut, rather, reach back and help others walk through it too,’” Mr. Aguilera quoted.