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Teacher Interviews

C.C.: So, what was the most memorable moment from all of your time at UHS?

Doc: Hmmm…yikes. Well, the craziest day was when seniors streaked. At the student body elections, five seniors with bags over their heads, went running across the stage, in the middle of one of the presidential candidate’s speeches, and then ran up this ramp by the maintenance office, and there was a getaway car. My good friend who was the admissions officer, got up to chase them, then stopped and said, “What am I going to do if I catch them?” That was one of those remarkable days.

C.C.: What was it like when you started teaching here, and what are the main differences between then and now?

Doc: Well, I’d never taught high school before. I’d taught at UC Davis. And when I started working here, I was working for Crocker Bank. It was a kind of a cold bath. I had never even stepped across the threshold of an independent school, a private school. I assumed that Everybody had money, and I was quickly informed that not everyone here had money, not even in the old days. I was really thrilled with the faculty. Faculty became friends very fast. It was a very cohesive faculty. It was only a four-year-old school, so everyone was trying to pitch in and we needed to make a name for ourselves, so there was this pioneering spirit. Everyone was putting in the time and doing stuff. I still remember driving shuttle buses to the Decorator’s Showcase party with the soccer coach. We were driving vans, athletic vans, from the parking lot. I don’t think we’d think of doing that now as faculty members.

C.C.: What Civ songs would you use to describe Chris and Rachel.

Doc: Well Martin would have to be Moonfleck—that just goes without saying. Rachel, that’s hard one. If she didn’t take offense, I’d say A Gift to be Simple (Copland, the variations). Not because she’s simple, because she isn’t. She has that kind of even tempered cool; for those of us who run hot and cold, we look to. And Chris really isn’t Moonfleck, actually. Somewhere between Moonfleck and Gnomus I would say.

C.C.: What is your favorite Civ song and composer, and are there any Civ songs that you’ve gotten really sick of over the years and can’t stand anymore?

Doc: My top two composers are Bach and Mozart–they’re just the best. Probably Brandenburg 5; I played that a lot when I was a harpsichordist. That connects very strongly. And Don Giovanni, I love every note in that piece. What would I rather not ever listen to again? Probably Notre Dame Organum. Anything to do with atonality, which I think is an abomination, I think it’s a mutant phase that music went through. If you put that in print I’ll probably lose my reputation. I always feel bad when I have to teach it. It shows how conservative I am. I’m a harpsichordist; my interest in music died around 1809 or so. Pieces I wouldn’t want to to teach again–not crazy about the Machaut isorhythmic motet frankly. I could probably live without that one.

C.C.: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on a Civ test?

Doc: I’ve seen some really crazy answers to things–like the “Arse Nova.” That absolutely cracked me up. The best line came out of a research paper. A guy was doing a paper on the Irish Potato Famine. This guy wrote that things had gotten so bad, that they were forced to eat a hot brothel of cabbage and water. Little moments like that–pretty good. Worst day in the class, I was translating “Ave Maria” and it instead of writing “Hail Mary, Full of Grace”, I wrote “Hairy Male.” One of my colleagues fell in the aisles!

C.C.: If you could teach something in Civ other than music would it be art or history?

Doc: Art for sure. I love Art History, I love talking to students about it more than I do music. You know, because I get to test myself. I’ve always loved history. My degree’s in Art History. And History’s history.


C.C.: What are your plans for next semester?

Rachel: I’m taking a whole year. Most people take a semester, but I’m taking a whole year. I’ve been thinking about a sabbatical for a while. We’ve been saving up and planning. We’re going to Madrid. I have husband, and a child who is 11, and we’re just picking up for the year, and going. One of the reasons I’m taking a year, is because I knew I wanted to take my son out of school, and so we wanted to do a full year; half a year is kind of tough. My son’s going to go to school, and I’m just going to hang out, and read, and go to a ton of museums. Like the Prado, the Reina Sofia, stuff we looked at in Civ.

C.C.: What Civ art pieces would you use to describe Chris Martin and Doc?

Rachel: I have a few. A few years ago in the binder that we give you guys, we had the School of Athens on it one year and we divided it up. I was Plato, Chris was Aristotle. I’m about ideals, and standing up for those beliefs and stuff, and I think Chris is very pragmatic. And Doc was Periclitus because he was a grumpy philosopher with disdain for others.

C.C.: If you had to choose an art piece to describe your entire career at UHS, what would it be?

Rachel: Oh my gosh! I don’t know–these are crazy good questions, making me think! I don’t know! Oh my God, C.C.. Fountain. It’s a little absurd at times here. It’s a little crazy here at times, it’s a little thought provoking. And it’s always never what you expect it to be!

C.C.: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on a Civ test?

Rachel: Did you ask Doc this question? Okay, because we just made up a Jeopardy game, we made it up at an alumni event, and one category was “Civ Bloopers.” This usually happens on final exams–when students draw, they draw like their Civ experience through the art pieces, and they are often parodies of art pieces, but with Civ students. And I don’t know how people have time for this on the final exam, but it makes me chuckle as I’m grading final exams. In terms of answers that are really absurd–well, there is one, but I’m not going to say that one, because it’s a current student.

C.C.: What’s your most memorable experience about teaching at UHS?

Rachel: Oh my gosh–I have many. I must say that what I like about teaching here, every day, I’m always laughing in class over something. I think it’s fun to teach in particular with these two guys because they’re pretty funny. There was a day when we were going to give back tests, and Chris hid a student’s test. He hid it from Doc! And they went out and put the tests in the boxes–and then Bruce realized, he’d lost the student’s test! So they came back in class, and Bruce is kind of worried, and all of a sudden I’m teaching. And I look over and see Bruce punching Chris in the arm, because he’d revealed he what he’d done. In the middle of class, and Bruce is punching Chris. I took a picture on my iPad.

C.C.: If you had to teach something in Civ other than art, would it be music or history?

Rachel: Music, for sure–there are so many crazy pieces out there. But I don’t think I’d be very good at it.

C.C.: Who’s your favorite artist or art piece?

Rachel: Oh my God, everyone asks me this, and I can’t do it! It’s like asking me to pick a favorite child–I can’t do it! I will say that it changes all the time. I like different artists. There are things I distinctly don’t like. There are things in Civ that I don’t like teaching. Usually before class I’m in the faculty room, and I have to get myself excited to teach that piece. I don’t want you to know what I hate!


C.C.: How long have you been working at UHS, and what are the main differences between when you first started to work here vs. now?

Vicky: I have been working at UHS for 22 years. My classes are smaller than they were when I started. Early on, I had one class of 21 students. Now, my classes rarely exceed 16 students and are often smaller. There was very little support for new teachers when I first arrived. Now there is a new faculty boot camp for incoming teachers. We also have a mentoring program for students, which helps make the transition into UHS easier for incoming freshmen. The theater used to be a multi-purpose room with folding chairs. Now it is a beautiful state-of-the-art space where our performing arts program can flourish. The campus has been remodeled, expanded, and improved and there are plans in place to improve it even more in the near future.

C.C.: You said that your teaching style has changed a lot—in what way has it changed?

Vicky: I have been teaching for 35 years. I taught at Half Moon Bay High School for 13 years before I came to UHS. Many years ago teaching high school was mostly lecturing with students listening and taking notes. Through professional development and my desire to hone my craft I quickly learned that there is so much more to teaching. While at Half Moon Bay High School I discovered the power of cooperative learning and a whole new way of teaching emerged for me. I realized that I can learn a lot by observing students while they work in groups. I can tell who is on the right track and who is struggling. Each year I discarded techniques that were less than ideal and replaced them with new ones. I assign a lot less homework than I used to and strive to give my students time to complete most, if not all, of their homework in class, in pairs or in groups. I require less memorization and expect my students to be able to apply the concepts they learned to new situations. I give my students more control over their math education than I used to. UHS students usually make good choices when they are given more control. My students can choose the difficulty of the homework problems they work on by selecting two out of three sets of problems to complete. On tests, students are allowed to skip at least one and sometimes two problems. Through professional development I learned more about learning differences and incorporated different ways to address students’ processing differences. Trying new things is fun for me and keeps me fresh, especially if the changes that I implement are well received by students. I emphasize whole-class discourse and focus on deep understanding vs. memorizing. Students explore a variety of ways to arrive at the final answer while working in groups.

C.C.: What’s your most memorable moment from UHS?

Vicky: Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I would say the senior retreat for my previous advising cluster. After teaching most of the students at the retreat during their freshman year, it was so

wonderful to attend a retreat with them as seniors where they were more mature and in touch with themselves than they were as freshmen. They were insightful and introspective during the senior retreat and the love and respect everyone had for each other was palpable. The seniors were preparing to leave the nest we call UHS and venture outside of their comfortable bubble. It was very moving to see them embark on this transition process at the retreat. I am very sad that I will not be here to experience the senior retreat with my current cluster.

C.C.: What is the weirdest answer you’ve ever seen on a math test?

Vicky: Students are highly motivated here at UHS, so I haven’t seen any really weird answers on tests. I have seen every possible kind of mistake on tests, but usually students at UHS are not too far off the mark. They can usually muster up at least one concept they can apply to any given problem.

C.C.: What are your plans now that you’re leaving UHS?

Vicky: I’m going to do some volunteer tutoring for sure. I might do some tutoring as a part time job and perhaps a bit of subbing. I plan to spend time with my wonderful wife. I have family responsibilities that I need time for. I have been working since I was 14 years old where I had a job working in a bowling alley nursery during the summer. I also taught bowling to children and worked in the junior bowling office computing bowling averages and typing league information sheets. When I am retired I want to do all of the things I didn’t have time to do while I was working all of those years. I am very much going to miss being in the classroom and will miss both my students and my colleagues.

C.C.: What is a talent that you have that not many people at UHS know about?

Vicky: Let’s see, I was once chosen to be on the All-American Bowling Team (for amateur bowlers) when I was 19. There were only six people in the entire US who were on the team. I bowled one professional tournament and actually won prize money. However, I decided I didn’t like the indoor bowling alley atmosphere so I quit bowling and switched to playing (and later coaching) softball. I think that right now I could step in and coach a softball team with confidence, so I guess that’s a talent.

C.C.: How did you first become a math teacher?

Vicky: I have always wanted to be a teacher. I think it is because I grew up in a neighborhood where most women were housekeepers, secretaries, or retail clerks. None of those occupations appealed to me. I loved school and looked up to my teachers. I especially loved math. In junior high school (grades 7-9) my favorite teacher was Miss Lewis, my math teacher. Miss Lewis chose me as one of a few students who competed in local math contests. She fostered my confidence in math and when I went to college I ended up majoring in anthropology and math. I wanted to have a job where I could continue to learn new things every day while helping to make the world a better place. Teaching seemed like a perfect fit for me. When I was in college I worked at See’s Candies about 36 hours a week to support myself and to pay for my education. After I earned my degree, See’s offered me a supervisor’s position. My father thought I should take the job because supervisors earned a very good wage. However, I wanted to be a teacher, even though I knew I could make a lot more money being a supervisor. I have never regretted my decision. I feel very fortunate to have a job that I absolutely love. I never saw Miss Lewis after I graduated from middle school and I regret not letting her know what a positive impact she made on my life.

C.C.: What’s your favorite math subject and what is it about that subject that speaks to you?

Vicky: I would say Geometry because we study it as a body of knowledge that was developed from the ground up. Our historical journey is loosely based on Euclid’s work. Because my students prove virtually every proof we cover in class, they gain a strong sense of how the study of Euclidean geometry was developed and how logical reasoning is an important life skill.


C.C.: What is your most memorable moment from working at UHS?

Meredith: I wouldn’t say that I have a most memorable moment, but I have certainly learned a lot working here from my fantastic colleagues and students who all pushed me to be the best version of my “teacher self.” I am leaving a better teacher than I was when I arrived, and I am grateful to this school for that.

C.C.: What are your plans for once you leave UHS?

Meredith: My family and I are moving to NYC. I will be teaching at Packer Collegiate in Brooklyn Heights. We are making the move to be close to our families who are all in the NY/CT area.

C.C.: What is the weirdest/funniest thing you have ever seen in an English essay?

Meredith: I plead the fifth.

C.C.: Do you have a favorite author/book? If so, do you teach about that book or author? What is your favorite book to have your students read? Least favorite?

Meredith: I have had some experiences of teaching books in the last few years that I really knew very little about. I wouldn’t say that they are my favorite books or my favorite author’s per se, but it is really exciting to teach a book and learn along with my students. I love, love, love to teach Beloved. I’ll always find a place for that book.