By Elissa Choi

The Mirror
Feature Editor

By Shimla Rahman

The Mirror Staff

By Lucas Shim

The Mirror Staff

By Tommy Chan

The Mirror Staff

By Aliza Patel

The Mirror Staff

FEATURES

The Fresh Faces of Van Nuys High School

September 20, 2017

FEATURE: From teachers to administrators, Van Nuys High School welcomes new members to its Wolf Pack for the 2017-2018 school year.


Assistant Principal Michelle Keller

What drew you to Van Nuys High School?
I was moved here. It was an administrative move; I didn’t apply. I was just placed here. The district happens to move the administrators after some of the years or so. I’ve been at Grant High School for about 5 years.

What prior teaching experience do you have?
I taught for 16 years as a science teacher at Curtis Middle School. I also taught a couple of summer classes in high school.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
My first impression of VNHS was that you guys were serious about learning. You have so many avenues to which to express that: whether you were in a magnet program or the tech-art program. There are a lot opportunities for students to shine and succeed in whatever career path they chose. I met a few of you guys during registration day. You guys were very nice and very helpful. You took your self-initiative and I saw a lot of leaders.

Why is Van Nuys High School so special?
The special thing that I see—not only from students, but from faculty—is that they are very passionate about VNHS and its reputation and success. There are some great things going on here and they want people to know that this is the jewel of the Valley. That’s why I think the unique thing is the genuine love for the school.

What inspired you to become an assistant principal?
I was inspired years ago when I was a science teacher. I just saw the need to have more support for teachers and students in that particular time. There was only so much I could do as a teacher than a department chair. I thought I could have more influence and a greater impact on students if I became an administrator.

What is the most important thing for students to take away from high school?
I think it is learning how [to] build relationships with others. We all come from our own homes, families, certain cultures and ethnic circles. But when you come to high school, it is like a mini-college because you meet so many different people, even more so in college. This is a starting ground to meet so many [people] from different cultural backgrounds and can bring so many different experiences to you. Van Nuys is pretty diverse. I see a lot of different cultures here. Not is it only diverse in culture, but academically as well.

How are you adjusting to our school?
The most difficult part is just learning everyone’s names, what they do, who they are and how they are connected. Also, when people bring you issues to resolve, I need a little bit of background, like, how do you do it here? Because every school [is unique] in learning the traditions and practices.

Nurse Riffat Khan

What prior experience have you had?
I’ve worked at hospitals in the valley because I’ve worked through agencies.

Why Van Nuys High School?
It’s close to my home and was in need of a school nurse.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
I like the grounds, it’s very well-maintained. The administration is very good. The students are fine too, just like any other students.

What inspired you to become a nurse?
I’ve been a nurse for 25 years. Initially I started because it was a good career and has job security, but now, I continue to like it.

Are you a registered nurse?
Yes, and a nurse practitioner.

Have you worked at hospitals?
Which ones have I not worked at? I still work at Northridge and I recently resigned from Valley Pres. I’ve worked at like all the hospitals in the valley because I’ve worked through agencies, so I’ve been everywhere -Tarzana, Encino, West Hills, Mission Hills, everywhere.

What is the most important thing for students to take away from high school?
The most important thing that they can take is that it is just the beginning of their career and this is not the end. You got to keep going.

How are you adjusting to our school?
I’m learning where to find things. The paperwork and clerical part is just taking time but everyone is being very helpful.

What do you enjoy about being a nurse?
I like helping others with their problems.

What is your favorite thing about VNHS so far?
It’s very pretty. I like the grass, the buildings. It’s an old fashioned traditional school and I like it.

Have you been a nurse to other schools?
Yes. Burton Elementary, Vena Elementary, Sun Valley high School, and I used to come here once a week. I rotated. One day here and one day there.

Mr. Anthony Catalan (Room 515)

What drew you to Van Nuys High School?
I thought that Van Nuys High School was a good school. Most of the students are well-disciplined and very respectful towards their teachers, and that’s why I came over here. I also came to grow professionally, and right here, I could use my potential better.

How did you come to teach your subject?
I am a math major, and my bachelor’s degree is math, and my master’s degree is also math.

What prior teaching experience do you have?
During my first nine years of teaching, I taught in the Philippines at the “University” level. I was an instructor over there. For the next eleven years, I worked at a high school and taught all of the subjects from Algebra 1 to AP Statistics.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
For my first day here, it was amazing. It was because most of the students were well-disciplined, they are very respectful to teachers, and they followed directions. The way they are disciplined here is awesome.

What subject do you currently teach?
I currently teach Geometry.

What is the most important thing for students to take away from your class?
The most important thing for students to take away from the class is that math can be learned from everybody. If you exert effort, you can always learn math. There is nobody that is “dumb” in math, but if you show effort, you can learn in my class.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
Well, both of my parents are teachers so I decided to become a teacher too. It’s something like a family legacy.

How are you adjusting to our school?
I am getting used to the school pretty fast. I am adjusting well, and this is really much better than my years before. The culture here is very good and diverse.

What do you enjoy about teaching math?
What I enjoy is the content of the subject. My students think in higher levels in math, and they apply themselves to the subject. And I think that’s something they enjoy too.

Mr. Erick Ramirez (Room 540)

What drew you to Van Nuys High School?
Well, Ms. Gardea was actually a music teacher when I was a student at Walter Reed Middle School. So when I saw her name and when I was looking for schools to apply to, I definitely felt a little bit more comfortable knowing that there was somebody that I would be familiar with at this school.

How did you come to teach English?
I kind of fell into it. I went to CSUN where I originally was studying film. I took an Italian course, and my professor suggested that I take a linguistics course, and linguistics turned into English. That’s how I wound up here.

What prior teaching experience do you have?
This is my first official teaching job so this is my first full-time position.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
I actually came to help out with the Summer Bridge program before school started so I got to meet some of the freshmen and teachers. Immediately, I knew it was a place where I would feel comfortable. All of the teachers have been fantastic and welcoming, and students are great. So far, it has been a very positive experience.

What subject do you currently teach?
I only teach English.

What is the most important thing for students to take away from your class?
The most important thing that students should take away from my class is to have skills in communication. That is reading, writing but also speaking and listening that they can apply in any field regardless of the kind of work that they go into. Communication is key in all aspects of life so I hope they are able to learn something that allows them to thrive in that regard.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
When I was starting to take my English classes throughout my time in school, I was really fortunate that I had amazing teachers myself. I have always had a really positive experience in school, and I always liked being in school. I think I just kind of wanted to contribute to that kind of legacy.

How are you adjusting to our school?
Adjustment period has been fine so far. There are no problems to report.

What do you enjoy about teaching your subject?
What I like the most about teaching English is the fact that I get to know the students so well because I want to communicate with them through their writing and speaking. I feel like I get to know a side of them that maybe some of the other teachers don’t. As an English teacher, I think we are lucky to get to do that.

Ms. Maria Renard (P.E. Office)

What drew you to Van Nuys High School?
I am an Alumni here. I cheered in high school, and I loved it. In my senior year, I approached the cheerleading squad, and that’s how I realized that I wanted to be the cheerleading coach at Van Nuys High School.

How did you come to teaching your subject?
Well, I did cheerleading, and my cheerleading experience made me love it here.

What prior teaching experience do you have?
I did my student teaching here. I also have been coaching here since 2001, my senior year. I taught at Hollywood High School for the last three months. I also teach gymnastics and cheerleading for the recreational centers for the City of L.A. and the City of Glendale, and I have been teaching for 16 years.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
I love the school, and I love the students. We have an amazing facility. We have all of the proper equipment that we need. The students here are so driven, motivated, and very talented.

What subjects do you currently teach?
I am just teaching P.E. and cheerleading.

What is the most important thing for students to take away from the class?
What I am trying to teach them is lifestyle fitness in both Cheer and P.E. Whatever they learn here, I want them to take it outside of high school when they graduate and continue to be active so that they can live a healthier lifestyle.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
My cheerleading coach. She was amazing. She helped me throughout high school. She motivated me. And when she gave me the opportunity to coach, I realized what I wanted to do; I wanted to teach P.E.

How are you adjusting to our school?
Perfectly well. I’ve been knowing everyone since I grew up here so it was easy for me to adjust to the school.

What do you enjoy about teaching P.E. and cheerleading?
Everything. I enjoy teaching kids new skills. I enjoy introducing new activities. Some of the kids have never done different types of sports or physical activities. When I teach them, some of them find something that they love to do and they take it to the next level. I had a few students enjoying sports because they were introduced to them in P.E.

Mr. Jacob Ferrin (308)

What drew you to VNHS?
Honestly it was the several magnet programs and the art programs and the art things that were very exciting to me and it was close by. It seemed like a wonderful school.

How did you come to teach your subject?
I started off as an ethno musicology major. I studied music and culture in history. I went between being a music teacher or a history teacher.

What subjects do you teach?
I teach U.S. History and World History. I teach three honors, one standard, and one standard World.

Have you taught at any other schools before?
Nope. This is my first year having my own classroom.

Where did you get your degree?
UCLA.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
Wonderful. Everyone’s really nice and the kids are great. The staff is good too, good people.

What is the most important for students to take away from your History class?
I hope that they take away a sense of self, that they have the power to be themselves and act as themselves and to come up with good logical thoughts.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
I think I just always knew I was a teacher. I fought it for a really long time because I didn’t know if it was what I wanted to do. Slowly, I realized that it was what I wanted to do

How are you adjusting to our school?
Good. I’m getting used to remembering things at the same time. The more or less, I’m figuring it all out.

What do you enjoy about teaching your subject?
I enjoy teaching all the politics and all the stories of history. The story itself is just remarkable.

Ms. Milagro Medrano (Room 113)

What drew you to VNHS?
I student-taught when I was about to become a teacher; I did it with Ms. Xochitl Molina and Mr. Sherman Kang (now retired) and they always talk about how they love Van Nuys. When Ms. Molina said that there was an opening, I said, “I’m there!” It sounds like the kids are awesome, the teachers are together, and the principal is awesome. It sounded like everything was perfect and ready to go. I’m very happy to be here.

How did you come to teach your subject?
I was a computer science major, but I started working because I needed money at North Hollywood High School. It was helping kids with math. The more I worked with kids, I realized that I didn’t like sitting doing computer programming. I liked to be with students, I liked teaching. That’s how I moved from programming to math.

How long have you been teaching?
I taught four years at Sun Valley and this is my fifth year here.

Where did you get your degree?
I got my undergrad at CSUN.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
When I first came in, I was just amazed at how everyone was very friendly. All the teachers and students were awesome. The kids are amazing. They really want to learn and ask questions. So far, it has been awesome.

What subjects do you currently teach?
I teach Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

What is the most important for students to take away from your math classes?
From my experiences at university and teaching in general, I think that in any class, you need to know how to problem solve. It can be something simple from Algebra to calculus, you need to know how to problem solve. Don’t give up, persevere even if the problem is difficult. I hope that my kids learn how to apply their skills to problem solving.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
I think the decision came because I realized that when I was in high school, nobody really helped me out. It was a miracle I actually got to the university, and I thought that I can be that teacher for others. It’s what I hope to do for Van Nuys kids.

How are you adjusting to our school?
It’s nice. We have breakfast in the classroom, nutrition, and lunch. It’s a beautiful schedule.

What do you enjoy about teaching math?
I enjoy being able to teach ninth and eleventh graders because I can see that growth. Once I get them back, I’m able to see how much they’ve grown. I know exactly what my geometry kids need to do to go into Algebra II.

Ms. Myrna Sibrian (Room 317)

What drew you to VNHS?
I was working at Monroe and I was the new English teacher there but the numbers were low so I was displaced.

How did you come to teach your subject?
I got my credentials for English and I’m specifically teaching English language teaching classes.The students don’t speak English and they’re struggling. I was part of that population in middle school. I am a native from El Salvador, so I see myself in them.

What other teaching experiences do you have?
This is actually my second year. My first year was at Monroe, I used to be a TA there for 4 years when I was getting my English bachelors and my credential.

What is your first impression of the school and the students?
All the faculty members are very welcoming, on the first day they were introducing themselves to me. Just the atmosphere feels safe. I feel safe. I haven’t had trouble with any of my students so far; trying to keep it that way. It’s just the atmosphere is very positive, and that was nice.

What subjects do you currently teach?
ELT 1 and ELT 3

What made you want to become a teacher?
I started working as a TA — that was before I decided to become a teacher — and I found out that I really, really loved teaching. I found it natural for me, the students liked when I would explain it to them, and again, I just wanted to help this specific population of ELT students.

How are you adjusting to this school?
I’m adjusting well. I’m doing everything that I should be doing. My goal is to start talking to more faculty members right now because I’m still getting the hang of my classroom and reading; I’ve been by myself in the classroom.

What do you enjoy about teaching ELT?
Learning from my students, learning from different cultures, I get to work with a lot of students from central America, but now this year I’m teaching students from Russia, from Armenia. Just getting to know their culture and how they’re different and sharing that with the whole class.