By Keith Dinh
After nine years of service to the community and its students, Rainier will be closing at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Nearing the end of the year, the Rainier faculty team prepares for their departure by reminiscing on their favorite stories, memories, and messages to the Rainier community.
In 2011, Summit Public Schools opened their first two campuses in the San Jose area: Rainier and Tahoma. Both schools have served their communities throughout the last nine years, and, as of Nov. 16, 2020, the decision to close one of the two schools was made. With Rainier set to close, faculty members have been trying their best to prepare to adapt to the imminent change. Many of them have been looking for job opportunities for the next year while ending the year with as much positivity as possible.
Rainier Executive Director Edwin Avarca has been teaching for the last 10 years, and he has been at Rainier for eight of those years. He shared that the decision to close Rainier made him “sad” and “disappointed” and explained how he wanted to try to support the Rainier community to finish the year as strong as possible.
“I’ve really had to push myself to be understanding and empathetic of people’s views. I have tried to figure out what kind of support folks in our community need to finish this year strong and be set-up for success for next year,” Mr. Avarca said.
In regards to his plans after Rainier closes, Mr. Avarca plans to be the middle school principal at Bridges Academy this next school year. Despite the negative emotions that are associated with the closure, Mr. Avarca recalls that his favorite memories at Rainier lie in the graduations, as he sees that it is “always the perfect ending to the school year.” He also shared that his favorite part about being at Rainier has always been the community, relationships he has developed, and “the hard work and passion of our faculty.”
While reflecting on the closure and how it was carried out, Rainier science teacher Shaila Ramachandran explained how her favorite part of being at Rainier has been the faculty and the student body, a community that is “genuinely fun to be around.”
When she first came to the Bay Area to teach at Rainier, Ms. Ramachandran began to make connections in the Rainier community right away. “I was new to the Bay Area when I joined Rainier, and the staff here are some of my closest friends — they feel like family to me. Nowhere else have I been surrounded by such dedicated people, which makes me want to push myself to do better,” she said.
Looking back on her last three years of being a teacher at Rainier, Ms. Ramachandran sees that the students and the community she has been a part of have changed her in many positive ways. She has been able to grow to be more outspoken and advocate for her students and Rainier community.
“The students at Rainier have taught me so much. They have encouraged me to be a more courageous educator and to be a more outspoken advocate for their needs. No matter what I may be feeling as I walk onto campus, I can always count on my students to find a way of putting a smile on my face,” Ms. Ramachandran said.
Along with her favorite parts of being at Rainier for the last three years of her five years of teaching, Ms. Ramachandran shared her most memorable experiences at Rainier such as a surprise birthday party that her mentees prepared for her early in the morning:
“I’ll never forget how much my mentees did to surprise me on my birthday — decorating the whole room, getting a piñata and even putting a slideshow together of pictures from the past years. I also will always remember our potlucks, brunches, movie nights and outings, our grade level BBQs and camping trips, etc.,” Ms. Ramachandran said.
Rainier math teacher Rachel Gianforte, who started teaching her first class this year, shared that her favorite part of being at Rainier for the last two years has been being able to talk to students, getting to know more about them and their lives. Ms. Gianforte, who plans to be the senior math teacher at Summit Everest next year, shared one of her favorite memories at Rainier of being able to joke around with an AP Statistics student before class.
“Every day before class started for Statistics, a student, who shall remain unnamed, stood outside in the sun with me. The sun was always restorative and the student without fail would try and bribe me for a higher grade. I love rhymes, even if it was getting bribed, and the joke made me smile every single time.”
Rainier Spanish teacher Isela Mosqueira, who has been teaching at Rainier for three of her ten years, announced that she will be taking on the role of being the AP Spanish and Spanish 3 teacher at Summit Tahoma next year. She explained that even though she feels very fortunate to be able to continue being a mentor to as many Rainier students who attend Tahoma as possible, she still feels the disappointment of not being able to see the Rainier juniors graduating together.
“I am fortunate to be teaching at Tahoma next year and continuing to be most of their mentor, but a lot of them will be going different places, depending on what is best for them, and, while I will continue to support all my mentees in all ways I can from afar, it will be sad that we won’t all be together for senior year and graduation!,” Ms. Mosqueira said.
Ms. Mosqueira shared that her most favorite part about being at Rainier has been all of the people that she comes in contact with in the community. She has been able to build many close connections with other faculty members, and she expressed that the culture that one would find at Rainier is impossible to find anywhere else. She explains how the entire community has always been supportive of one another, especially in the last six months after the closure was announced.
When asked about her favorite memory she has made at Rainier, Ms. Mosqueira was unable to choose one specifically, and she shared some of the parts of her experience at Rainier that she holds most dear. “I have so many, it is impossible to pick just one. The best memories that come up first are all the outings I’ve had with the students. The camping trips, mentor outings and innings, study trips, boba runs. Every moment where the pressure from school is off and we’re all together just hanging out and I’ve gotten to know students’ personalities so well! I’m honored to have worked with so many amazing students and hope to keep life connections with them!,” Ms. Mosqueira said.
At the end of the year, the Rainier community will no longer be together on one campus. Despite the hardships that everyone has faced this year, the Rainier faculty members have been trying to prepare everyone as much as possible for the next step in everyone’s life. In some final goodbye messages to our community, the Rainier faculty have included some messages that they wish to share with the community before the year is over.
See the slideshow below for pictures of the Rainier community:
See below for some teacher messages to the Rainier community:
Rainier Office Assistant Adriana Sanchez: Never give up, you are capable of meeting your goals. For some, it will take a little longer than others, but if you put your mind on your goal, anything is possible.
I will miss you all.
Rainier science teacher Anwar Darkazanli: One important piece of advice I would give to the students of Rainier is to never, ever stop learning. Learning does not need to happen just inside the classroom. I feel like the education system in the U.S is a work in progress, so don’t feel like you are a failure if you don’t do well in school. Learn things on your own, the internet can be one of the many best sources you can use to learn. Learn about your government, economics, budgeting, communicating, science, writing, history, technology, or whatever you are curious about.
All for free, at your own pace, 24/7!
Goodbye suckersssss!! :p No Just kidding! I think about you guys 24/7, and you guys have taught me so, so much about kindness, empathy, joy, simplicity. Some things I will do differently because of you all include Organization, Articulation, Citizenship, and Love.
Rainier Executive Director Edwin Avarca: Keep your head-up! We’re rooting for you even if it does not feel like we are.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn, grow, and be myself at Rainier.
Rainier Spanish teacher Rebekah Green: Nothing worth doing was ever easy. It is often precisely because of the effort we put into something that gives it value. The value in something comes from how it has made us grow and adapt and change, which sometimes can be painful. But pain does not need to mean suffering. The pain is not something we can change, but we can change how we relate to our pain, and we can choose not to add to our pain by blaming others, blaming ourselves, or trying to avoid feeling what we feel. I hope for every young person at this school to be happy, to be safe, to feel loved, and to have the courage to live a long, full life.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.
Rainier science teacher Shaila Ramachandran: This year, you have all faced such extreme challenges, from the school closure, to transition to virtual school, having special events like Prom and Graduation come into question, and so on. Never discount how resilient and capable you are. Be gentle on yourself, but also allow yourself to have an open mind to new experiences. When one door closes, another will always open up to new possibilities.
Even though I won’t be teaching at your school next year, I will always be available to you and ready to support you. I hope that we can stay connected- I would love to see what you all end up doing with your lives!
Rainier math teacher Rachel Gianforte: It is cool to care. Be passionate about something.
Rainier English teacher Brandon Garcia: I would tell my students that what matters most is where you started than where you end up. Usually people assume it’s the other way around, but where you started includes all the obstacles one started with and confronted. Eventually, where you end up, or what obstacle you overcome, feels all the more satisfying considering where you started: that’s what makes you unique.
Rainier Spanish teacher Isela Mosqueira: Take the spirit of Rainier with you. The resilience, the compassion, the humanity. Remember all the lessons you learned and all the people who believed in you. Remember all your achievements. All the times you surprised yourself. All the times you fell and got up again. Take that forward and keep building on our strong foundation to always strive to become the best version of yourself!
Rainier history teacher Justin Hauver: You are, quite literally, the future, which means that, despite the current uncertainties and sadness in our realities, the future is looking bright.
Thanks for everything. I wish you all well.
Featured image at the top:
Rainier faculty team collage, giving a message to students:
“There is beauty and happiness that can always be found even during hard times. Remember how strong you all are! All of us miss being with you at school so much!”
PHOTO CREDIT: 2019-20 Rainier Faculty