New Year, New Experiences

Ending off the school year with enhanced knowledge


Carmen Ruiz

Giving advice on an assignment, Jenny Byington interacts with her students. She became a teacher because she loved working with people. “She has made me a better student in a sense,” sophomore Angel Fonseca said. “The way she presents the work and the deadlines on everything is really clear and it helps me manage my other work as well.”

Yaritzza Montenegro, Staff Writer

As students wrap up second semester, we follow up with the teachers who were new to our campus, or experienced a new teaching assignment.

Dr. Cynthia Wong (Dental)

These past two semesters were full of uncertainties for Dental Science teacher Dr. Cynthia Wong. Wong took on the position after Kirsten Winfield – the previous Dental Science teacher – left the position.

“I had about a two-week notice,” Wong said. “I am a dentist so it wasn’t hard, it’s just that I had to try to plan for teaching Dental and taking over. All the classes I had planned for, were gone and I had to start all over again. So it was stressful.”

Wong previously taught Health Science I & II and Pharmacy. She previously worked as a dentist for 26 years and has been teaching for three years.

“It was an abrupt change,” Wong said. “I think dealing with my new students and missing their old instructor and having my old students come in and say, ‘Oh I miss you,’ it was just really hard. I think for me the students were the hardest part of the whole transition. It was a big knee-jerk reaction because it was unexpected.”

Despite all of the turbulence Wong faced at the start of this change, she was able to adapt and gain reassurance.

“Basically I just want the kids to learn, because that’s what I’m here for,” Wong said. “I am just trying to find a happy medium where they’re used to one way while teaching and now it’s a different way, I’m just trying to massage the two to try and get something so that the kids can at least get some knowledge.”

Wong tries to use as many models and examples as she can; she believes it is the best way to teach students.

“She is put together,” junior Dental student Madison Davis said. “When she does notes in different lectures, she explains more things and uses examples. She’ll show us more different instruments that we used in the dental field. She gives us more knowledge, I think, and she makes it easier to relate to what we are learning.”

Wong was awarded various Southwest Shoutouts, which are awards that give recognition to teachers and their way of teaching.

“[The Southwest Shoutout Awards] were unexpected,” Wong said. “It was cool to realize there were some students that you actually really connect with and they’re learning from you and appreciate what you’re doing for them. It’s just really great when it’s like that because you’re connecting and they’re learning and they want to learn and hopefully it’s a little fun for them. I think that’s the best way to realize that students understand what you’re teaching and they like your class.”

Despite the sudden change, Wong plans to continue teaching Dental Science in the upcoming school year. 

“I am excited for next year,” Wong said. “Hopefully I am staying [in Dental Science], I mean I am a Dentist so I’m pretty sure they’re going to keep me here. I would like to make next year super awesome, because at least now I see what we have. I would really like to have them [Dental students] experience the lab a lot more because we have a really nice lab.”

Jacob Hill (English 11/12)

Coming back from teaching abroad, Jacob Hill took on 11th and 12th grade English.

“I think students were a bit more curious about who I am because the other teachers have been here for a while,” Hill said, “Usually, they [students] know things or know who they [teachers] are so I think students were curious about who I am as a person.”

Hill has been awarded two Southwest Shoutouts and was nominated for The Heart of Education Award.

“This was the first time where I had to plan a whole year and had two different grade levels at the same time,” Hill said. “I was transitioning from doing smaller bits of planning to now having full responsibilities between meetings or planning, grading, etc, where before I had them in smaller doses.”

After Hill’s experience as a substitute teacher in college, he taught at Clark High School, spent two years teaching full-time in South Korea, and took a long-term substitute position at Shadow Ridge High School.

“He’s probably the best teacher you could get junior year,” junior Dylan Añes said. “There´s never a dull moment in his class. I have 2nd period for his class and it’s very tiring to get up in the morning and he just gets the whole class active and awake. He’s pushed my work ethic a lot, especially for things like ACT. English was one of my highest scores thanks to him.”

Hill does an activity with his students called “community circles”. It is a reflection of classroom, personal, and educational experiences throughout the quarter. He looks forward to this event every quarter to see the community and individual growth.

“Because I am here the whole year, I am able to build relationships with all the students,” Hill said. “So, starting in quarter one, I didn’t know anyone when I came here and now, coming into quarter four, I feel like I’ve built really good relationships with the students and I feel like the students in all my classes have grown closer together, too. The community aspect of the classroom has definitely developed.”

He hopes to be a teacher that can connect with the students and to be able to provide them with the necessary skills to succeed in various areas of life while still allowing them to feel comfortable. 

“As a teacher, I’ve heard that your first full year is hard,” Hill said. “It was definitely hard, but at the same time, compared to past experiences, I feel like I’m very lucky and happy to be here, working with all my students that I have here. Working at Southwest, I feel very supported by the English department, by admin.” 

Jenny Byington (English 10)

English teacher Jenny Byington feels that she has positively improved her skills in teaching.

“As a new teacher, I definitely become a little more confident,” Byington said, “I’ve fallen in love with teaching. At the beginning of the year I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m trying out teaching’. I was excited and pretty overwhelmed, but now I am really happy to be here.”

This is Byington’s first full-time teaching job.

“It was pretty smooth [the transition into a new school],” Byington said, “This is a really nice school. Everyone here has been really friendly. The students are really awesome, creative so it’s been pretty fun.”

Contrary to her timid personality, Byington feels that she has grown overall as an educator and looks forward to returning to the classroom next year.

“I’ve grown a lot in my ability to communicate,” Byington said. “Whether it is writing an email to a parent who’s stressed out or asking a colleague for help or helping my students recognize how awesome they are, I feel like I’ve grown a lot in being able to share those things and solve problems.”

Originally, she attended college to become an editor, but later found satisfaction in interacting with others through tutoring.

“In general I’ve loved seeing my students work on projects,” Byington said. “They’ve been really creative and it’s been fun to see them collaborate and share ideas with each other. I’m also the adviser for sophomore Student Council, so it’s been fun to put on events with them like the Pie-a-Teacher-Palooza and build school spirit.”

She enjoys class discussions and enjoys hearing students talk about literature and ideas. For a project done in her class, she had her students create their own society.

“I like how she listens and is lenient but she enforces at the same time,” sophomore Sofia Pudar said. “She made me more attentive in class. I guess it’s because she made the material more interesting. She made it more interactive [the class], she started asking more questions.”

Byington wants to continue teaching to help people believe in themselves.

“As an overall goal, like why I’m teaching, is because I want to help my students to recognize how powerful their voice is,” Byington said. “I want them to be able to think about diverse perspectives and have respectful conversations with people they don’t agree with and to grow in their understanding of the world and kind of think about things. I don’t know if accomplished is really something I can really say for that, but I feel like it’s a process that definitely drives what I do in my classroom.”