This year, Palo Alto High School welcomed several new teachers, including math teachers Sharla Orr and Cynthia Chen, English teacher Robert Rojas and science teacher Michael Stern. Orr previously taught math for seven years at Antioch High School and then eight years of high school math in Texas.
Orr is excited to be apart of the Paly community and its calm, open, respectful lifestyle.
“Everyone’s been welcoming since I first arrived here,” Orr said. “This school is really laid back. The school I came from in Texas just seemed very oppressive in comparison. [Paly has] a really relaxing and nice atmosphere and it a very nice place to work. The students here are so wonderful and so polite.” Orr added, “It’s refreshing being able to hear students say ‘thank you’ at the end of class. I’ve never have that happen before.”
Orr aims to aid her students though her teaching, as many of her teachers did for her.
“I think I just had so many people help me along the way in school and college,” Orr said. “I had so much of a support system. I just wanted to give back in a way.”
Overall, Orr is excited to be at Paly and intends to stay.
“I could see myself retiring here,” Orr said. “The environment makes a big difference, I don’t think people realize how much of a difference it makes, and I’ve been to two other places and now in comparison this is where I want to stay.”
Chen graduated from Gunn High School, and since then, she has taught two years of math at Leland High School in San Jose as well as English in Japan.
Chen is also happy to be joining the faculty of Paly. She is especially excited to work with and be apart of Paly’s accepting, opportunistic lifestyle.
“I think it’s really cool that there are so many opportunities for students to get involved; that everyone has a spot, or something that they can do and contribute,” Chen said.
Chen also looks forward to learning more about the many social aspects to Paly life.
“Because I’m new to the school, I want to get to know more students, get to know the activities that are here on campus,” Chen said. “I want to go to some sports events, I want to go to the plays and the concerts as well. I just want to get exposed to everything, get to know what’s out there.”
This is Stern’s second year of teaching. Last year he taught at Woodside High School, where he taught physics and earth science.
In contrast to the other schools he has taught at he is most dazzled by Paly’s financial abilities and by Paly’s student body.
“I’ve been really impressed with the level of care in the facilities. I’ve also been really impressed with the assumed level of the students, they always seem willing to put in the extra effort to succeed in the class, which is unusual and impressive,” Stern said.
Similar to many other teachers, Stern became a teacher in order to help students become more engaged with the learning process.
“I’ve always been interested in teaching, in some degree or another,” Stern said. “It’s really fun to get to know students and get to know what they’re interested in and to help them learn more about that. To get them excited about the learning process.”
Rojas taught English at his previous school, in addition to being a department chair and teaching AP English Language, journalism and AVID.
“I was initially intimidated by what people told me about [Paly’s students’] academic level or where they perform at, that this is a high achieving school,” Rojas said. “I’m very grateful and thankful to be here.”
Like many new students, the new teachers at Paly are always learning new aspects of the school.
“Everyday something surprises me, in a good way,” said Rojas. “Everyday I learn something new and different about the school, about the kids, the teachers, the administrators. Just overall being here as a new teacher there is always something new to learn.”
Overall, Rojas and the other new teachers at Paly simply look forwards to completing their first year at Paly.
“What I’m looking forward to most is surviving my first year here, so that in May or June, I can actually say I’ve spent a year at this school,” Rojas said. “I mean I think that’s an accomplishment for me and all the new teachers here.”