Tiller Teacher Throwbacks

By Karley Bailey and Nayeli Medina

As you slide into the same old wooden desk in your third period class and begin to block out your teacher’s lecture, you start to daydream… do you ever wonder what your teacher felt like in your position? Did they have the same feelings of teen angst and desperation? We asked eleven teachers to tell us about their high school experience, and how their journey as a teacher came to be.

Mr. Hughes- World History and Economics

Pacifica High School, 1985


What is your favorite high school memory?

“I don’t think I have a single favorite high school memory because I was so active in so many different things. I wrestled and that was totally key to building confidence, I sang in school and I met great people and that was very fun. I was [also] involved with the German program and I went to German camps and I ended up going to Germany after high school because of the things I had done in school. So, I don’t think I had a single favorite memory, but I think a lot of those combined made for a great high school experience. I should also add in there that I was also in our very first two academic decathlon teams, just to make me extra geeky.”   

Did you always pursue a career in economics?

“No, actually I went to school in Germany and as far as teaching I thought I would either teach economics or German but in high school I was much better at German than I was at probably economics.”

What did you want to be when you were in high school?

“I wanted to be a pilot.”   


Mr. Barry – Pre-Calculus

Brea Olinda High School, 2004


What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory was beating Buena Park in a football game. I got offensive player of the game for all of my great blocking. The team scored 5 touchdowns and I had great blocks on all of them, so I got offensive player of the game as a center.”

Did you always want to be a math teacher?

“It wasn’t at the front of my mind. I was thinking of doing some other stuff but it was always in the back of my mind. I think I had really bad math teachers and so I felt I always had to learn everything and then teach the other people in my class. So, I do feel like I was already teaching math when I was in high school and it got me ready for my job now.”

What did you originally want to be?

“I think I wanted to be a Spanish teacher but I thought it would be too hard to get a job. it’s always easier to get a math teaching job because more people are able to speak Spanish than they are able to do math. Now I’m glad that I do teach math and I get to speak Spanish while I do it. “


Ms. Campos-Guerrero; Art

Temecula Valley High School, 1999


What was your favorite high school memory?

“I have two. I was a part of the tennis team and it was a doubles team so that was really fun just because I got to be active with one of my best friends, and the team camaraderie, you know that bond you build with people. I was also on the dance team and I was actually the person that designed all of the back drops so that’s where my artistic background sort of played a part. So, whenever we chose a theme I would design all of the backgrounds and everybody would work on them. It was a three day show, not like we do it here in the assemblies or one show per year, it was a 3 day sold out full house with costumes and makeup and different outfit changes. That was a really fun experience for me. Besides that, Mr. Campbell’s psychology class. He was just really genuine and he explained things that were relevant and things that I could use later in life. Psychology has a lot to do with how you think about yourself and how you deal with other people and process things and deal with situations. As a student at that time, I just felt like that really helped me and he was a teacher that was really aware and really wanted to be involved and probably had an influence on why I later on became a teacher even though at the time I didn’t really know it.”

Did you ever think art was going to play a big part in your life when you were picking a career?

“Yeah, I’ve been drawing since I was little. All I did was draw anytime that I was either ill at home or had extra time. Drawing or gymnastics was all I did. When I went to college I knew I had to do something in the arts but it wasn’t until my senior year that I had to do a community service project where I had to teach little kids in a 3rd grade class and another project where I had to do an outreach for a women’s group home. They were women that were either in a 12 step recovery program or hiding from someone who had beaten and battered them and I had to do a recovery program for them using the arts. It wasn’t until I had that experience that I realized that I really liked integrating my love for art and people (talking to them), so I knew then that I would become a teacher but before that I knew that I would have to do something with the arts or something creative.”     


Mr. Miguel – AP Calculus and Algebra 2/Trig

Snider High School, 2000


What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory would have to be my senior year we played our rival in football, Northrop High School, and they were projected to beat us by 2 touchdowns. At halftime we were down 2 touchdowns. I played receiver and I had a really big catch that game that led to the winning game touchdown. That was up there, and my spring break senior year, that whole week was up there too. A group of buddies and I went to Florida and we got our own hotel room and we were just out on the beach every day, that was a wild week. Those two were probably my favorite.”

Have you always wanted to teach high school math?

“No, originally I wanted to move to Southern California to become an actor. I was out here when I was 9 years old, and we stayed in a beach house in San Clemente for my cousin’s wedding. I fell in love with the beach and I said “someday I’m going to live out here.” I wanted to be an actor, but as I grew older, cynicism sunk in and I realized the likelihood of me becoming an actor was very slim, but I still wanted to move to Southern California. So, as I was going through college I had to pick a career that I knew I would be able to get a job in. From a young age I had always worked with kids, and as I grew up and got older I was decent at math so I put the two together and decided to become a math teacher just so I could move to Southern California.”


Mr. Reta- Biology

Foothill High School 1980


What is your favorite high school memory?

“There are so many good high school memories…one of my favorite was the Homecoming dance when I became Homecoming King, that was really fun..really really cool…It’s one of those things. I played football, my girlfriend was Homecoming Queen. It was really romantic. It was definitely a special night.”

Did you plan to do something in the Biology field?

“I’ve always, always loved biology…maybe I just connected with the teacher. I really liked how biology worked and the connection in being in the mountains and enjoying all those aspects of biology and ecology. From the first time I took biology, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”


Mrs. Robinson- Journalism, Film Analysis and English 1H

St. Charles High School

Mrs. Robinson with her prom date (left) and with her husband (right).

What is your favorite high school memory?

“I really liked high school. I really enjoyed being on the dance team, performing out on the football field and in the gym for basketball. It was a different type of dance back then, but I really liked it.”

Was English always an interesting subject for you?

“Yes, ever since I was a little kid, I loved English. I’ll never forget my teacher sixth period, pulled me aside and said, ‘You should be a writer.” And she really encouraged me. [But] I did not always want to be an English teacher. I actually wanted to be a broadcaster or writer. I always wanted to do performances, and be in dance. I tried to be a professional dancer with a dance company, but I tore my ACL, so that ended it. So I always wanted to do something in performance, combined with writing.”


Mr. Ellis- World and US History

Fountain Valley High School, 1998


What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory was being MVP of my baseball team in my senior year.”

What did you want to be growing up?

“I wanted to be a professional athlete, and once I got injured I had to figure out what to do with my life, and this is where I landed.”


Mr. Martyn- US History and American Government

Corona Del Mar 1989


What is your favorite high school memory?

“So I surfed a real localized break, meaning it was a gang owned. Anyway, when I finally got respect there, in my junior year in high school, I no longer got my head dunked underwater. And in front of everybody, I surfed off this cliff. Also, the girl I dated who moved here from Georgia. I met her in Irvine.”

Did you plan on being a history teacher?

“I knew I could do a better job than my teachers. I just knew I wanted to be a history teacher when I joined the marines.”


Mr. Johnson- US History, Economics and MUN

Tustin High School


What is your favorite high school memory?

“We would have to divide it up into sports. My junior year I got to play the CIF championship with football and we also won a league championship against Servite high school. Those were some real highlight memories. I won a league championship as a wrestler my junior year, so that’s another sports highlight. For school, my favorite class was Mr. Woods’ English class and I remember the challenge of that class. Mr. Miller also had that class so he knows what I’m talking about. A lot of high school is the social interaction and some of the not-for-print experiences that are memorable. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing as like, my favorite high school memory. “

Did you always want to be a teacher?

“No, I had no idea I wanted to be a teacher, the seed was kind of in my brain because my dad, before he passed away, was a middle school principal, and my mom taught for more years than she would want me to say in Irvine. So, both of my parents were teachers and Mrs. Lane had gotten a job here and she knew she wanted to be a teacher and I was working at the port of LA just doing something totally different. I [wounded] up marrying a teacher and my sister was also a teacher so I thought, “oh that’s something I could do.” It would be a nice stable career. I was always interested in history and I got my degree in history so I [figured] that I could teach that. I didn’t imagine when I was in high school that I would ever teach at THS, it was kind of just a strange coincidence of events that worked out that way.”


Mr. Miller – AP Literature, English 3H, English 1

Tustin High School 2000


What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory was probably Mr. Woods’ English class. This is where I found a place where we could actually talk about things that were intellectual and that mattered more to people than what they were wearing or what they were doing that day.”

What did you originally want to do?

“I was gonna be a doctor until I went to college. I pursued English because I liked it. I loved reading. I thought there has to be something more to it.”


Mr. Trev- US History and MUN

Burlingame High School, 1972


What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory was probably a travel trip with the band. I was a band geek and this was up in northern California so we came down to San Diego for 3 days and it was the only time I travelled as a part of my high school experience. It was just fun to get away be crazy, have a good time, yeah. There were other (high school experiences) but only some of them involved law enforcement.”

Have you always been a part of MUN?

“I had no connection with MUN until I got to THS. This is the first time I had ever been a part of it. Looking back in my yearbooks, I realized that we had a fairly decent sized MUN club but not a program like we have at THS.”

How did you end up becoming involved with history and MUN?

“When I first when to college I wanted to be a social worker just because I knew I wanted to work with people. I wanted to serve people and make their lives better. I ended up getting involved in church ministry, I was a youth pastor and loved doing that more than anything. I became a preaching pastor, you know, the head honcho who speaks every Sunday, and I was a camp director for 7 years. But, 10 years ago, I basically decided, “OK, what do I want to do for the last 15 years of my working life?’ So I decided to get back to my first love which has always been working with students. When I was a youth pastor and a camp director, I just enjoyed it so much because you could make an immediate difference in the lives of kids who were searching for direction and looking for their purpose.”  

Well, there you go! They were once teens just like us without a clear vision of their future. If you liked this article, please suggest other teachers that you would like to see in our second edition of  “Tiller Teacher Throwback.”

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