Longest serving teachers love Paly experience

Several names can be recognized at Paly for decades in the past— Antink, Wojcicki, Williamson, O’Hara, Geller, Steiner, McNulty, Hansen and more. These names date way back to the 1980s and 1990s—when the now veteran teachers first arrived to join the Paly cast.

Suzanne Antink has been teaching at Paly for 30 years, totalling 36 years that she has been teaching altogether. Prior to teaching at Paly, Ms. Antink taught at a small school; she taught a few English classes and every single math class, including a calculus class for free in the morning to two students.

“The school I was at was a very small school,” Antink said. “I loved the school, it was really cool. But I did not have anybody to work with. I was the only math teacher, and I was lonesome.”

As a result, Antink began to attend math conferences and at one, she met a teacher named Larry Hawkinson who worked in the Palo Alto Unified School District. When there was a job opening, Antink applied, and she has stayed ever since.

“I realized how hungry I was to work with other math people,” Antink said. “The amount of support for students learning beautiful math [has kept me here]. I had never been at a place where I had felt so at home.”

For Antink, the environment here fosters a general delight for mathematics in the community, which includes parents, teachers and students.

“I think math is so beautiful,” Antink said. “Here, parents think that and a lot of students think that, and it is satisfying to be with my peers, whether they are younger than me or older than me. I love the fact that I have people that love math beside me. There isn’t anything like it.”

Each year, Antink builds relationships with students based on mutual respect and cooperation; they work together in order to develop progress.

“Students treat me well, and I hope I treat them well,” Antink said. “I just feel that we work together to move forward. Those kinds of things happen all the time here. I learn a lot all the time. I love being here and am never bored.”

And in moving forward, times change, people change and expectations change. According to Antink, over the years she has been at Paly, the educational expectations for students have risen, but they also have access to new technology in order to facilitate the transition.

“Students have to learn a lot more than they ever did before, but they also have really cool tools in order to learn to the new depth they need to,” Antink said. “[The students] need to be able to synthesize more and apply more and that is hard work, and they seem to do okay. Otherwise I think we still have sweet, wonderful human beings who want to change the world. I’m just so impressed and I just love being around the students.”

Since starting at Paly, Antink has had the opportunity to teach an array of classes within the spectrum of math and computer science, teaching every single math course from Algebra 1 all the way to AP BC Calculus, with the exception of Multivariable Calculus (introduced this year) and Algebra 1/Geometry (AIG).

Eight years after Ms. Antink’s arrival brought a new teacher from a different end of the course spectrum: theater and film-centric Ron Williamson, who joined the Paly staff in the 1990-1991 school year, 22 years ago.

Before Paly, Williamson taught theater and film at the University of Texas at Austin and then after, managed the Gifted Education in East Palo Alto. Former principal Sandra Pearson later brought Williamson here to Paly to teach theater. Since then, Williamson has been involved in the development and inception of many inveterate programs as well as taught an extensive medley of courses.

“I’ve taught a lot of stuff,” Williamson said. “I began and taught Ethnic Studies the first time it was ever done here [at Paly]. The  film program was one developed by students and me. I was in the first TEAM. I’ve taught English. I did Film Studies before it was Film Comp a long time ago. So, I’ve been able to do a lot of stuff and to keep current in things is interesting. To see people expand their minds and getting creative is cool. I haven’t been bored much.”

Williamson has been captivated by the students’ dedication and cooperation, which leads to their ability to produce professional and exemplary work.

“The students have kept me here and they’re so wonderful and marvelous, but while that’s true, the collaboration between students, the creativity that I have been able to engender, hopefully, in students, and having fun has also [kept me here],” Williamson said.

During his extensive time teaching at Paly, Williamson has developed fond memories of working with students in their film and theater work.

“The first senior project we ever did was a student directed/produced production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot which sold out the first two nights,” Williamson said. “It was all [the students] and it was great. People from the profession said it was better than a lot of the professional stuff, and we still get that.”

To Williamson, over the past 22 years, Paly has definitely changed, as shown by changes in his classroom and the developing technology in use.

“When I first came here we had one computer lab that was tied to a mainframe,” Williamson said. “It was a whole different world.”

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