Center

LGHS’ most influential teachers

by Ashley Hagar, Center Editor

Photos courtesy Dominic Dal Porto, Media Production Editor

Michael Bollhorst

by Chloe Mendoza

Media Production Editor

Nobody comes out of Michael Bollhorst’s English Honors class the same way he or she entered it. Bollhorst’s seminar-style teaching pushes his students to understand the belief systems behind the novels they read, rather than just analyzing their themes. He’s a natural born mentor.

But in college, teaching wasn’t in the cards for Bollhorst. “The plan was to go and be rich,” Bollhorst reminisced. After teaching a summer program, however, Bollhorst decided to try out teaching, something that he continued with because it “brings [him] joy.”

Bollhorst goes out of his way to get every student involved in his class, creating an environment where you actually want to participate. He makes sure to talk about interesting topics, never enforcing a rigid structure of class discussion. Although he “shows his love of students by making fun of them,” you never question how much he values you or your contributions.

Over the year you spend with Bollhorst, he’ll make your class a close-knit community without you even realizing it – a community you’ll know you can always talk to long after you finish his course. His class is much more than analyzing books, it’s analyzing yourself and the world in which you live.

Dan Burns

by Andy Braham

World Editor

Anxiety often surrounds a student’s decision to  venture into the AP science realm. AP Physics, widely believed to be hardest class offered at LGHS, is no exception. The rigor of the class, however, is not its only unique feature; after a week or two, most students come to the conclusion this exceptionally hard class is also taught by undisputedly the most competent and engaging teacher on campus, Dan Burns.

Burns, a former lead aerospace engineer for Lockheed, knows how to teach physics in a way that interest’s his students. Burns became a teacher in the early 90’s after leaving Lockheed at the end of the Cold War. He said that the thought of being a teacher was always “at the back of his mind,” even when he was working on weapons systems. Since his arrival at LGHS, Burns has crafted a truly different science course. In his class, time flies as it is packed with Burns’ own, often humorous, demonstrations. His personal motto regarding teaching is that “you can always do better,” and he isn’t one to waste class time. Burns also forms valuable relationships with his students, making him very approachable when you fail a quiz. One wonderful part of his classroom environment is the music. Playing both music related to the labs and a steady stream of classic rock, Burns adds some fun to the sometimes daunting math.

Erol Ceran

by Lauren Sanders

Editor-in-Chief

You may know him by his alter-ego, “Ceranimal,” or his varying Fractured Follies appearances, but Erol Ceran’s most important role is in the classroom teaching Honors Economics and Intro to Business. Although Ceran is one of the most well-known teachers on campus due to his charisma, he did not always pursue a career in education. At the time of the 2008 financial crisis while Ceran was on a sabbatical from being an investor, he and his wife were living across the street from LGHS Honors Biology teacher Alex Shultz, who inspired him to enter the teaching field. At a neighborhood party at Shultz’s house, Ceran wowed parents and teachers alike with an animated analysis of the financial crisis, and within minutes Shultz asked, “Have you ever thought about being a teacher?” At that moment, the journey began: “I realized that I was in a position where I could do anything I wanted to do,” Ceran explained.

“I used to be a wolf of Wall Street type of guy,” Ceran reveals, citing his fierce competitiveness that he gained after working in the stock market. However, he learned in his first few years of teaching that he also possesses a very nurturing side – Ceran aims to give every student equal opportunities to achieve success.

Within his first two years of teaching at LGHS, Ceran received a request to accept a student into his Economics class; he accepted this request without a second thought or further investigation, but he would later discover that this student had an extremely troubled past. “I welcomed this student literally with open arms, gave him a big slap on the back and a handshake on the first day…There was no stigma, no reputation,” Ceran recalls. In the spring of that year, the student won an award for the most impressive “turnaround,” and he attributed his change in attitude to Ceran in his acceptance speech: “Mr. Ceran treated me differently than others treated me: treated me with respect, gave me that chance, he was willing to just sit down with me, and do anything he could to help me understand.” These are the positive reinforcements and paths to success that Ceran gives to all of his students, caring deeply about teaching a challenging, rigorous curriculum that doesn’t leave any student in the dust.

“Just let every kid start with a blank slate,” Ceran advises, “give them a chance to do their work and demonstrate that they are learning – great things will happen.”

Heath Clark

by Ryan Manseau

Sports Editor

Although his deep voice and commanding stature may intimidate students who don’t know him, Heath Clark has a unique ability to reach his students. “I try not to take myself too seriously while also being a serious teacher. I also try to make sure I know something about each one of my students beyond typical teacher-student interaction.” Clark spoke about how he consistently acknowledges that both students and teachers have their flaws, so he tries to see beyond his students’ flaws outside of the classroom in order to remain as ‘in the moment’ as possible. Clark knows many students around campus, as he teaches a variety of subjects and also serves as the defensive coordinator for the football team. Clark’s passion to see problems from both a student’s perspective as well as a teacher’s perspective makes him a very unique and effective educator.

Michele Drouin

by Dana Cook

Editor-in-Chief

Although many students don’t recognize the name Michele Drouin until their final years at LGHS, it is a name that receives a lot of respect, describing a teacher of some of the toughest mathematical subjects: Trigonometry and AP Calculus AB.

While explaining the process that brought her into teaching, Drouin elaborates that it all happened by accident. She never knew what she would do with a math major, yet while in college, her school presented her with the opportunity to work in a fellowship with the district, and after earning her teaching credentials, the district promptly hired her.

Although Drouin never expected to become a teacher, she now embraces her job not only as a math teacher, but as a life coach. “It’s not like I intend to teach just math; I hope I teach my students more than just math in the classroom. Math is just the medium through which I teach.” Elaborating on her classroom values, she shares her motto: “Be comfortable being uncomfortable.” She is a firm believer that people should always push themselves to grow. “There is no growth that happens without a challenge and some failures,” she stated. “It’s okay to fall, you just have to pick yourself back up and keep going. I want to teach students to be persistent in life and keep challenging themselves because that’s where the growth occurs.”

When questioned about her favorite part of teaching, Drouin quickly responded, “Watching the students grow. They come in with a certain set of knowledge and as they go through the year, I watch them make connections and grow not just academically but personally as well. They work through any struggles they have, whether it be math or personal. So just any interaction with my students is my favorite part. Tutorial is my favorite part of the day, honestly, because that’s where I get my one-on-one time and that’s amazing to watch.”

It is clear that Drouin instructs her students with genuine care about each individual. It shines through to her classes how genuinely passionate she is about the subjects that she teaches, which makes a huge difference in the atmosphere of her classroom.

Matthew Holm

by Abbi Berry

Public Relations Manager

Many LGHS students know Matthew Holm as the teacher they can typically find walking all over Los Gatos. A jack of all trades, Holm has taught English, AP Computer Science, Physics, and several other classes at LGHS, but teaching was not in his life plan when he left high school. When his middle school principal who told him to pursue engineering, Holm spent most of high school with that major in mind.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from Cal Poly and then spending five years in the field, he decided he wanted something more. A good friend told him to try teaching, and he started working at a test prep company, as well as a physics lab at SJSU. “As an engineer I didn’t feel like I was adding anything particularly unique to the process… But I’ve always had this desire to add something unique to whatever it is I’m doing.”

Even with just a few experiences tutoring and teaching engineering, he felt like he could bring something special to education. He reached a point where he felt it was worth getting his teaching credential.

For his student teaching requirement, Holm taught with Amelia De La Paz, Steve Hammack, and Rachel Peters as mentors. “I found a place to express creativity, get to know dynamic young humans, and see people excited about learning.” He loved his experience so much that once he finished his required semester, he volunteered to stay another. “[Teaching] is always an adventure. No day goes quite as I expect it to.” Holm explained his engineering career as filled with business interactions and his teaching career as filled with human interactions, making all the difference. He finds that high school students have a “lovely mix of life decisions and frivolity and authenticity.” He explains: “There is so much life in a high school setting.”

Holm had a student whom he described as a superstar and who definitely already knew the material, but at the end of the year told Holm “You changed the way I look at the world ever so slightly that it makes a big difference.” He was able to articulate Holm’s goal as a teacher.

Another defining moment in his career comes from when he had a class he explains was the most challenging class he has ever had. He felt like a total failure with two particular students. A few years later he saw one of the students at a graduation and he had a child. The student explained he had to make a lot of changes to adjust as a father and thanked Holm. “It was just a sweet reminder that the impact we as teachers have is not always visible and it is not always evident.”

David Homa

by Dominic Dal Porto

Media Production Editor

If there’s one thing that David Homa has, it’s experience. With a background in teaching for over 25 years at the high school and collegiate level, as well as an ongoing tally of exploring 62 different countries, there’s no doubt he has been around the block. Homa brings this vast experience into his classroom in order to enhance his teaching, stating: “I feel that it’s really important to bring all the traveling that I do into the classroom, so it’s not just a picture in the book. It’s what it looks, sounds, feels, and tastes like.”

However, Homa appreciates that he does not, and never will, know everything. So, for areas outside of his expertise, Homa has students engage in Skype calls with people around the globe. Some examples include checking in with Abednego, the boy from Kisumu Kenya whom Homa sponsors to go to college, and questioning Scott Harrison, the self-made entrepreneur and CEO of “Charity: Water.”

Another attribute that sets Homa’s classes apart is the fact that he puts little emphasis on a final grade. Homa criticizes the traditional school system for incentivising students towards the wrong goals. “That’s the problem with the whole system. Students are motivated by a grade and not by what they learn.” His grading system is simple: if you’re willing to put in the effort and learn the criteria, you will be rewarded with an appropriate grade. “It’s about mastering the content, not necessarily being held to a deadline.”

One of the many classes Homa teaches is Social Entrepreneurship, where students study cultural anthropology, as well as the attributes of a social entrepreneur for a semester.  They are given almost the entire second semester to manage their own time and collaborate on an entrepreneurship project. A semester-long work period may be viewed as a cardinal sin by some teachers, but Homa knows that this freedom is crucial for the development of young adults. “My primary motivation to teach Social Entrepreneurship is to engage students in a way to help them better understand the world around them that a textbook generally doesn’t do, and also for students to develop the skills of regulating their own time in a classroom setting, instead of always being being directed by an adult, developing the skills to direct yourself.”

Ann Jordan

by Cole van Miltenburg

Editor-in-Chief

Ann Jordan, known to her students as “Jordan Sensei” or more fondly as “Senslay,” creates an engaging classroom environment that instills students with knowledge pertaining to Japanese language and culture. Her career as an educator extends back to her teenage years, when she began teaching in informal settings while moving back and forth between the US and Japan. As a high schooler living in Salinas, she traveled to the outskirts of town several times a week to tutor children of Japanese flower growers in the area and watch over them while their parents worked in the fields. Several years later, she found herself teaching English to Japanese kids at a community center while attending college in Tokyo. Jordan said that these interactions “planted a seed” for her love of teaching.

However, Jordan wasn’t convinced that she would pursue a long-term career as an educator until she moved back to California and her mom, who was also a teacher, convinced her to obtain the proper credentials. Jordan’s first official teaching job was at a rural elementary school in Chualar, California, where one of her main functions was to serve as a liaison between the school and Japanese-speaking students and parents. It was here that she began teaching Japanese in order to facilitate communication between Japanese and non-Japanese speaking students.

Jordan described herself as “falling into” the profession of teaching, but added that “a lot of things in life are that way…you discover along the way that you like something or you’re good at something, and sometimes an opportunity presents itself.” She moved on to teach both Japanese and English at a middle school and high school in Salinas before coming to LGHS in 2001 and starting the Japanese program.

Jordan appreciates her time teaching in places with various social and cultural environments. “That kind of diverse experience gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have had if I always taught in the same area,” she said. And despite the differences between each school, she notices underlying similarities between all of her current and past students. “Nobody’s taking Japanese because they picked the easiest one,” she explained. “The kids who choose to take Japanese, whether they live in Salinas or grew up in Los Gatos… they’re choosing to take something very different which means there’s something that interests or fascinates them about this different culture or language.”

In the classroom, Jordan is known for incorporating Japanese social and cultural issues into her teaching, a few examples being the 2011 tsunami disaster, as well as the stigma around mixed-race people in Japan. “I like to take a topic and use that as a vehicle to teach the language,” she elaborated. Although her main goal is to help students gain skill in the language, she said: “the thing that stays with you is that deeper learning about other people and countries and cultures–you leave with a different perspective.”

Jordan’s engaging and relevant teaching style leaves students with an undeniable passion for Japanese culture and an overall greater interest in the world around them.

Cathy Messenger

by Reegan McCluskey

Opinion Editor

A majority of students will not take chemistry until their sophomore year of high school; therefore, they may not know the name Cathy Messenger, although it is one they should never forget. Messenger teaches chemistry and ASR; her teaching style effectively influences her students as she connects with them on an emotional level, while also exploring their passions and interests. Messenger urges her students to get to know her and think about the helpful resources she provides for them.

Unlike some teachers, Messenger wakes up every day thrilled to inspire the young minds of her students. The main goal that motivates her to continue teaching is helping students find their interests, meet new personalities, and show students that science can be a fun subject to pursue.

Don’t fret if you haven’t had Messenger as a chemistry teacher–you can also take her ASR class which is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. This class allows students to explore their passions by creating a science project and competing in science fairs. Although it takes up a lot of time, it gives students the freedom to examine different science fields.

Throughout Messenger’s life she has recognized, on multiple occasions, her joy of mentoring and teaching others. This joy sparked in her the idea of becoming a teacher. After working hard at LGHS, Messenger became the head of the science department where she further helps to transform the science department.

Paddy O’Regan

by Erin Grasty

Media Production Editor

Paddy O’Regan’s classroom reflects her energetic, interactive, and caring personality. O’Regan currently teaches Spanish 2 and strives to make the class an enjoyable and comfortable environment for all students. Because of the life-changing experience students have in her class, kids leave sharing the same love that O’Regan has for the subject she teaches.

O’Regan first fell in love with Spanish at age 12 when she traveled to Mexico with her family. She described the first event that led to her fascination with Spanish: “There were these really cute boys on the beach, and my cousins and I nicknamed them flower trunks, yellow swimsuit, and red swimsuit. I fell in love with flower trunks and that’s why I wanted to learn Spanish.”

She started by studying interpretation and translation at Cabrillo College, then transferred to UC Santa Barbara and, later, San Jose State. For her first job as a translator, O’Regan went to migrant camps where she translated for a teacher. O’Regan said that most mothers from the camps typically had chemicals sprayed on them while they worked in the field, causing their kids to have birth defects. This influenced O’Regan’s eating and lifestyle habits; now she eats all organic, as some of her students may recall hearing in class.

O’Regan explained how education for students within the migrant camps inspired her to become a teacher, saying, “[Parents] were doing everything to help them reach milestones that kids without delays had already achieved at that age. That to me was a big change; that’s what got me involved with teaching, too.”

After her experience as translator, O’Regan began her career as a bilingual teacher at Olinder Elementary School in San Jose. She taught kindergarten and first grade in both Spanish and English. At Olinder, O’Regan would teach the students in English in the morning, and in the afternoon she switched to teaching in Spanish.

It wasn’t until she started teaching at C.T. English Middle School that O’Regan taught a Spanish class. She was a teacher there for nine years before she came to LGHS. She is now in her seventh year of teaching at LG and finds that students continue to surprise her every day. “What’s blown me away is that some kids with emotional challenges have really taught me skills that I can then help other students with,” states O’Regan.

As a student in her class, it is obvious that O’Regan loves what she does and wants students to perform well. In the classroom, she tries to incorporate a lot of verbal skills practice; “I feel like even my kids who don’t have a great grade… at least leave here being able to talk somewhat, and that’s the most important to me.” Additionally, O’Regan finds it important to make her classroom a comfortable environment for students to freely make mistakes as well as bond and connect with their peers.

O’Regan looks back at her years teaching at LGHS as a time of understanding and support. She appreciates the staff and students for creating such an accepting community and encourages students to further advance their ability to keep an open mindset in and out of the classroom.

Michael Pens

by Jordan Evans

Editor-in-Chief

While band and orchestra director Michael Pens only interacts with a small portion of LGHS students, the impact he has on them is unparalleled. This is Pens’ second year at LGHS, and his arrival was most opportune; replacing a director who decimated enrollment, he rebuilt the music program in record time with his charisma and genuine interest in fostering student success.

By instituting the Honors class option and encouraging students to audition for honor bands, he continually strives to validate and promote students’ musical talent. Teaching the same students for multiple years has given Pens a unique opportunity to “see them grow as musicians and as people,” so he can inspire them throughout their high school careers.

Pens has made a home for himself in the music department – almost literally. He arrives at school early to unlock his classroom for all the students who eagerly congregate outside, and during marching season, he only begins his hour-long commute home after band practice, which can last until 9PM! In addition, both he and choir teacher Maricel Riley led their students on a 10-day trip to Spain over spring break, a feat only achieved by the most dedicated of teachers.

Before coming to Los Gatos, Pens taught at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica. When his former students saw him at a marching band competition (after he had begun teaching at LGHS), they came running with smiles plastered to their faces – a true testament to the lasting effect that he has on his students.

Walking to the beat of his drum students, Pens inspires every student in his wake, one musical pun at a time.

Loredana Spiridon

by Connor Holland

Media Production Editor

Loredana Spiridon traces her career inspirations to childhood; she always had the innate desire to teach. “I have fond memories growing up in Romania and playing ‘teacher’ with my younger sister.” Although she always knew that teaching was her calling, it was not until high school that she discovered her affinity for math. Her love for numbers, combined with a thirst to share it, led her to the classroom.

Spiridon teaches Honors Trigonometry Pre-Calculus, Geometry, and Algebra B. She runs a rigorous class with great expectations; challenging tests and a large homework load are the norm. These high standards mixed with her kind and patient demeanor is a combination that undoubtedly earns the respect of students.

Creativity is a major part of Spiridon’s course– a unique goal for a math class – and she does so with group projects. For example, in her Pre-Calculus class, she tasks students with teaching their peers a math concept through a creative project. This open-ended assignment has many possibilities. Whether the students give detailed lectures on their topic or make goofy, yet informative, music videos, they always enjoy themselves and learn while doing it. Through projects like this, Spridon really has one goal as an educator: “I strive to help students see the beauty in mathematics.”

Kathleen Wehr

by Sami Linden

Graphics Designer

Teaching was always the last thing on Kathleen Wehr’s mind when she thought of her future. Ever since her childhood years, Wehr spent whatever time she could working in a dance studio as her passion for dance took up most of her life. With constant pressure from her parents and a star-student older sister to whom she was always compared, Wehr still put in the hours at school. However, she never thought she would succeed in the academic world– let alone teach in it.

When the time came for Wehr to decide what she wanted to study in college, she immediately knew she wanted to follow her lifelong passion for dance. While this was her dream, there was one thing standing in her way: “My father would only pay for my college degree if it was an academic degree, not the arts,” Wehr explained. So even though Wehr thought she absolutely hated school, she decided to explore the only subject she felt some connection to: English.

After college, Wehr remembered how she used to love teaching dance when she was younger. Wehr said “teaching, no matter how old the kids were, was always fun for me. I just loved connecting with them and being able to help them.” In 1995, Mrs. Wehr started her teaching career at LGHS, thinking that she would only teach English for a few years until she could open her own dance studio. When an administrator asked if Wehr planned on staying after first year at the school, Wehr replied that “she definitely would not be grading papers for the next 20 years.”

Yet 22 years later, Wehr is still devoting countless hours to her ninth grade students. “I look forward to coming to class every day and talking with my students. Even the ones who drive me crazy!” Mrs. Wehr wants to be “an advocate for the students. Someone who can be an ally for them and connect with them on a more personal level.” She centers her teaching philosophy around the fact students will be more willing to learn from a teacher who seems more approachable and understanding. So even if students may say to her that her class is easier than others, Wehr still knows that they will take something away from her daily lessons.

Categories: Center, Uncategorized

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