Tag Archives: teachers

Summit Prep teachers talk community

By Jessica Esparza, Jonathan Garvin, Eliza Insley and Kai Lock

Staff Writers

Summit Preparatory Charter High School is known for having a great sense of community, so we decided to find out how teachers keep the feeling of unity throughout their community.

One example of the way our school shows our community’s power and devotion to our school is School Beautification Day. Summit Prep students, parents and faculty come together to clean and decorate the school to better our learning environment. It helps build the community and creates bonds between students and teachers.

The teachers shared their varying experiences with Summit Prep’s system and how they try and positively affect their community beyond just special events.

Teachers at Summit Prep always try and stay a part of the school’s community and try to impact it in the most positive ways. Cady Ching, Summit Prep assistant director, talked to us about how she positively impacted Summit’s community. “ I just try to be ever-present, everywhere all the time so that people can find me if they need to talk to


Cady Ching, Summit Prep Assistant Director

me, and I like to lead by example – instead of always telling people to pick up trash, I just clean, so that when they see me cleaning they think, oh I should clean too.” She explains how leading by example can lead to a chain reaction of favorable actions. Ms. Ching said that by cleaning our school we can instill pride about our school and by encouraging others to participate in cleaning our school we can keep feeling proud about our school.

Ms. Ching, also talked about what she thought the hardest part about being a teacher was. “The most challenging part, you know, this is a charter school that works very, very hard to make sure you guys have access to all the opportunities you want to have in your life, so we wear a lot of different hats, meaning we do a lot of different things every single day to make sure that you have those opportunities.” She faces a new challenge every day, making her job not as easy as it looks. Ms. Ching stated, “I am a college counselor; I do discipline and I do all recruitment with all the shadow ambassadors and open houses.”

Though her job comes with a lot of difficulties, the joys of being a teacher make up for her hard days at school.  “I feel like the reason I’m in education is to work with youth, and I feel like there is a lot of power to that as well because we are all helping you access your power in this world and feel empowered to create change and make a difference, so that’s my favorite part.”    

David Tellez, a tenth grade history teacher, loves having a close relationship with his students. “The best part about being a teacher, I think, is the relationship building with students, because I interact with close to a 100 different personalities a day,


David Tellez, Summit Prep Modern World II Teacher

and I get to know the ins and outs of all of you, and that’s pretty cool.”

Mr. Tellez also reflected on the best part of teaching: “I also like seeing the light bulbs that seem to go off when you’re looking at an assessment and you realize, ‘Oh, that’s what it means.’ That’s pretty cool to see.”

In addition, Mr. Tellez described how he came to Summit Prep and joined the community. Mr. Tellez stated, “A best friend applied to Summit first, and she told me about it; we were working at the same school, she said, ‘Hey, you should try this out because our current school sucks,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s try it out,’ and then I applied, and then got an interview and got hired that day.”

Summit Prep Dean of Students, Michael Green, always tries to stay involved in Summit Prep’s community. In his new position as dean, he has already taken great measures to better our community. Mr. Green said,  “Every Tuesday and Thursday I start my days off with check-ins with male students – those male students, some of which have been in trouble and some of which just have leadership problems. Really the first time I did it, I went into the classroom and they


Michael Green, Summit Prep Dean of Students

were like, ‘Am I in trouble?’ and I was, ‘No, you’re not in trouble.’ It was cool to have them in and talk to them about just life and just have them do it every Tuesday. The other thing that I’m starting is good culture phone calls every Friday. So to parents who are used to hearing that their students are doing bad things like they’re weeks at a time for doing really well like calling their parents just to say, ‘Hey, guess what your student’s been doing?’ This would be so much better, and I think that when you start to put those things at the forefront you can get parents that are more supportive; you get students who have been in trouble but that one phone call may feel so good that it makes them the other way.”

Mr. Green also talked about his journey to Summit Prep. “So now my journey and the role that I have students and school culture allows me to be all of that and like it’s cool to find a place that has all those things in one. So my journey you know has been very fulfilling more so than anything I’ve done in education so far. It’s been really exciting.” Ever since Green came to this community he has been so happy and really loves being here and doing everything that he really does enjoy.

Mr. Green has a lot of responsibility and he said, “There is a number of things, if you look at the title of the responsibility that my job, of course every week all school meetings, come into those like ‘ugh… here we go.’ Each week we really have to focus in on how we make that better and how do we not stop trying even though it’s tough. I think that the restorative conversations that we have between friends who you know normally you go to high school and you get into a beef with your friend and no one talks to you about it, but being able to just sit down and talk to students about resolving conflict and having conversations, I think that’s impactful.”


Gretchen Oorthuys, Summit Prep Resource Specialist

Gretchen Oorthuys, a Summit Prep tenth grade mentor and resource specialist, elaborated on what the Summit Prep community means to her. Ms. Oorthuys said,  “I think the Summit community is about identifying challenges and then finding strategies to overcome them. And I think the Summit community is about mutual support. I think that is true between the teachers, and I know that it is true between the students because I see you guys supporting each other all the time.”

Ms. Oorthuys feels that she plays a big role in helping the community become closer through helping people interact with others outside of their comfort zone. She thinks that lots of times students only interact with their friends and people that they are close with, and she wants to push people to interact with and get to know peers who they aren’t as close with to further strengthen the community.

She also feels that although Summit Prep’s community is bigger than she is, she also believes that it is part of her job and responsibility to maintain a strong, healthy culture at Summit Prep, and she is very proud of how far the community has come. Ms. Oorthuys said, “I know that everyone is trying their best and is really engaging with things. I think it would be a lie to say that you guys don’t care, and that’s the most important part; that’s 95 percent of the battle. I’m always proud of you guys, and I’m always proud of the people that I work with; I know they all care.”

Here is a slideshow of the Summit Prep faculty in action:

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Mentor groups help strengthen Summit Rainier community

By Maritza Aguirre, Cecelia Carrillo, Blanca Melgarejo and Jordan Ricardez

Staff Writers

Family, friends, community. Where can you find these things? Summit Rainier, a high school in San Jose, uses mentor groups to build community by allowing students to meet and interact with people students normally wouldn’t interact with. 

A mentor group is a group of students put together during freshman year who are paired with a mentor for all of high school. This system is designed to help students receive one-on-one guidance from a teacher and to help them learn to create a family-type relationship. 


This is an example of a mentor wall. A mentor wall is a collection of memories from the mentor group. This wall belongs to Ricardo Quezada’s mentor group and is filled with pictures of good memories.

With this system in place, the school has grown closer together. As Sunli Kim, a sophomore mentor at Rainier, stated, “I don’t think that the people in our group would have naturally come together or joined or become a friend group. And I think because everyone is so different in it, it gives people a chance to meet new people that they might have thought they wouldn’t have normally associated with. But students realize that ‘Oh I actually do have a lot in common with this person.’”

In most high schools, students have a hard time coming together. They are too scared to approach their teacher and other students. But with the mentor system, students are put in an environment where they have to talk with others around them.

Part of the mentor system is a class called HCC. HCC stands for habits, culture, and community. During this 55-minute block, the mentor group meets and participates in fun activities.

A very common activity is circle; this is when the group sits in a circle and talks to each other about their day. As Kimberly Castro, a sophomore at Rainier, stated, “Once a week we tell each other what’s going on in our lives; some people just say that everything is fine and then others really open up, and it gives me an insight into what their world looks like. ‘Cause, of course, it’s different from mine, so I kinda get to see what they’re going through.”


Along with the mentor wall, most mentor groups have a poster dedicated to the mentee’s birthdays. This poster belongs to Mr. Quezada’s mentor group.

Having circle is important in this community because, at such a diverse school, people need time to talk about their feelings and have a place to make friends. In most other public schools, students are thrown into high school. They do not have any way to feel comfortable with a teacher or any teachers.

But as Edwin Avarca, the assistant director at Rainier, stated, “If you’re going to have 15-20 minutes of a multicultural group of students, why not use it to build up the student to help them be better aware of their emotional well-being and help them better understand their goals and what it takes to accomplish those goals?”


This is another example of a mentor wall, which belongs to Angel Barragan’s mentor group.

Having this type of system in place at school makes students closer to the people around them. The students are given an opportunity to interact and make friends, and after four years a mentor group can turn into a family.

Starting as nothing but strangers, mentor groups turn into a family. All these mentor group families come together and make a welcoming community for everyone.

To hear more about mentor groups, check out this video:

To learn more about mentor walls, click on this slideshow.


Biology teacher enjoys being at Summit Rainier

By Philippe De Jesus 

Staff Writer 

Shaila Ramachandran is a ninth grade Biology teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier. She is one of the teachers who are new to campus this school year. 

  1. What were your parents’ jobs?

“My dad is a software engineer who works at Intel, and my mom works as a director for a non-profit organization called Micro Mentor,” Ms. Ramachandran said.

      2. How is Summit different to other schools and how did that difference make you pick this school?

“What I really liked about Summit was the mentoring program,” Ms Ramachandran said. “I started doing mentoring last year in my previous school which made the whole job of   teaching so much more enjoyable, and it helped build deeper connections with other students.”

      3. How have your parents supported your career choices? 

“My parents have always said that they support me in whatever I do, but my dad was a little bit afraid of me teaching me for a long term and wanted me to something that would give me more money,’’ Ms. Ramachandran said. “My dad was a little bit surprised and concerned when I continued teaching, but today they still support me in whatever I do as long as I keep growing in what I’m doing.”

4. What are you contributing to this community?

“I want students to feel more comfortable being in a science classroom because I think science can make a lot of students nervous, so they automatically assume they’re not good at it,” Ms. Ramachandran said. “I want to be able to show students that they can be comfortable or confident in a subject even if it can be challenging for them. I want to help students build more life skills by teaching them how to research and to speak publicly that can help them in later life.”

  1. Why did you become a teacher? 

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    Rainier Biology teacher Shaila Ramachandran 

“In college, I started teaching because I was actually teaching health classes, and then I realized that I enjoyed working with students so much,” Ms. Ramachandran said. “I like teaching because it is challenging and every day is different so you can’t really predict what is really going to happen.”

  1. Do you plan on continuing being a teacher, and, if not, what other job would you want to pursue?

“I definitely do plan on continuing being a teacher,” Ms. Ramachandran said. “ If I would ever to leave teaching, then I would do something in the health field or a little bit of counseling because I would want to help support students.”

  1. Have you always wanted to be a teacher since when you were young?

“When I was really little, all the way to high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian because I wanted to take care of animals,” Ms Ramachandran said. “I worked in a zoo and realized that I liked interacting more with people, so I thought I might want to work in health care, but then I started teaching in college.”

  1. What do you like most about your teaching career?

“I like that no matter how difficult my day may be going outside of work, I can always come to work and be surrounded by students who are making me smile or laugh,” Ms. Ramachandran said. “There’s always going to be students that will make life more enjoyable.”

  1. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

“My greatest strength is being flexible; if something doesn’t go perfectly I can find something else to do that might work out better,” Ms. Ramachandran said. “My other strength would be my sense of humor because sometimes, even when I’m feeling frustrated, I turn to humor instead of feeling frustrated by saying something sarcastic or making a joke that I can laugh about with other students. My weakness would be not taking things personally, because sometimes I take it personally when I think I haven’t done a good job helping someone.”

  1. What do you think are some characteristics a teacher should commit to?

“Teaching requires a lot of planning and thinking, so you can only do that and create a high quality lesson if you are willing to put in the time,” Ms. Ramachandran said. “Being flexible is very important knowing that not everything will go as planned because sometimes the projector is not working or that the lesson you thought in your head doesn’t actually meet the students’ needs. Another characteristic I think a teacher should have is a sense of humor because the students are just going to be sitting there and not make it interesting at all which can make it very boring.”

History teacher shares her passion for teaching

By Dixie Ramirez

Staff Writer

Alana Buller teaches Social Studies at Everest Public High School. Ms. Buller cares about her students and wants to keep them on track; she enjoys working with them. This year, so far, she has enjoyed working at Everest.

1. What made you want to teach Modern World in Everest and why?

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Everest history teacher Alana Buller

“I have wanted to teach since I was a little kid. Both my parents are teachers and it always seemed like a very fulfilling profession,” Ms. Buller said. “I love studying and talking about history, so I thought it would be fun to share this passion with students. I decided to come to Everest because it was a small school with a great faculty and I could see myself enjoying teaching here.”

2. What is your goal for this year as a ninth grade teacher?  

“My goal for my ninth graders this year is to help them grow in their knowledge of history and also their curiosity for the past. I hope they leave my class with the ability to research and passion to keep up with world events in the present while also exploring how the world was in the past.”

3. What other subject did you like, besides history, when you were little?  

“When I was little I enjoyed English because I always loved reading. I still love reading; I just don’t have great grammar.”

4. What techniques do you use to teach to your ninth grade students?

“When teaching ninth graders, the greatest technique I utilize is patience.”

5. What would you do instead in you weren’t a teacher and why?

“If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be a historical researcher. I love conducting research and traveling the world. So if I had to pick a job different than teaching, it would be to continue studying history, or being a foreign ambassador, because that seems cool.”

6. What are the best things that have ever happened so far in Everest?

“So far at Everest, the best thing that happened was the camping trip. It was a great way to become closer as a school and as a mentor group, and I had a great time.”

7. What do you like to teach in Modern World and why?

“I like to teach about the French and Mexican Revolutions because students think they are very interesting and leads to a lot of discussion and questions in class.”

8. What shows or TV shows do you like that involve history?

“I really enjoy documentaries about historical events, so pretty much anything on the History Channel. My favorite form of entertainment about history right now is the musical Hamilton.”

9. How does it feel to deal with over 100 freshmen every week in school?

“Haha, I love being a freshman teacher! Their energy is fun to deal with and there is never a dull moment in the school day.”

10. What do you want as the best for your ninth grade students and why?

“I hope all my ninth graders enjoy their time in high school and don’t take it for granted! They are all smart and capable, and I hope that they continue showing that to their teachers and pushing themselves to be great.”

Everest students initiate teacher’s joy

By Rylee Storms

Staff Writer

Screenshot 2017-09-21 at 9.19.07 AM

Allison Mears, AP Government teacher at Everest

Allison Mears shows her love for the freedom students gain from attending Everest Public High School. The AP Government teacher expressed her admiration of the students having to take responsibility for their own work and future success.

1. When did you first become interested in being a teacher and/or working at a school? Did you have any role models that influenced you? If so, who and how?

I became interested in teaching when I was in high school,” Ms. Mears stated. “I had great teachers who influenced me. They told me that I would be a great teacher and encouraged me to think about the profession.”


2. How many schools have you worked at in your life? What was it like working as an educator in another country?

“I have worked at four different schools,” Ms. Mears said. “Working in Ecuador was the most difficult because I wasn’t able to fully communicate with my students. I had to work really hard to help my students succeed.”

3. Is working at Everest different from working in other school districts? If so, how is it different?

“Yes, because you have more roles than just being a teacher,” Ms. Mears said. “Working at Everest is definitely different. This school gives students a lot of academic freedom. It also requires teachers to take on a variety of roles.”

4. What do you enjoy about Everest and the way the school works? What makes you think this?

“I like how this school allows students to work ahead or catch up on missed work,” Ms. Mears said. “Because students work at different paces, it is helpful that students have the ability to take time with concepts they are confused about. That is my favorite part of this school.”

5. Is there anything you would like to see change at Everest? Why?

“I wouldn’t change anything here,” Ms. Mears exclaimed.

6. Is there anything you would like the students of Everest to know about you?

“I want my students to know that I care about their success,” Ms. Mears stated.

7. What would you want to see more in the students in your class? Why would you like to see more of this?

“I would like to see more focus from my students,” Ms. Mears stated. “Many students struggle to get their work done on time or pay attention in class. These are skills they need to develop throughout the year.”

8. What has been your biggest goal these four years as a teacher?

“I hope my students get to explore different career paths and passions,” Ms. Mears said. “I hope that my students leave high school with sense of purpose and a plan for college. I will feel like I have been successful as a teacher if my students have that.”

9. How do you feel about the student body at Everest?  What makes you think that?

“The student body at Everest is very diverse, and they bring a diversity of skills into the classroom,” Ms. Mears added. “Different students excel at different things, and it is great to see that play out in the classroom.”

10. What was being a student like when you were younger? Did you enjoy being a student at that time?

I enjoyed being a student. I enjoy learning, and I always had good relationships with other students. These factors made me enjoy high school and college,” Ms. Mears said.