The legacies that teachers have left behind

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The legacies that teachers have left behind

Michelle Wong

It’s still the same room: the same chairs, the same desks, the same computers. But something feels different. Something is missing.

That is what sophomore Isha Chakraborty felt as she walked along the hallway in front of A111, where she had expected to see the usual coffee sign on the door. Chakraborty had taken Writing for Publication last year, a class taught by Michelle Balmeo, who had moved to Oregon before the new school year. Chakraborty still vividly remembers all the memories she made and the lessons she learned.

Chakraborty feels as though there has been a loss to the school with the absence of Balmeo, and wishes she would come back to teach.14550719_1797468007132943_1139734389_oPhoto used with permission of Justin Kim. Michelle Balmeo teaches her journalism class in her last year at MVHS.

“I think that she was just like this force that kind of brought our school together,” Chakraborty said, “and now she’s not here.”

Although Balmeo is no longer teaching at Monta Vista, the lessons she taught are ones Chakraborty continues to carry throughout her life. According to Chakraborty, Balmeo told the class on the first day of school to go up to three people and interview them. As a new student from Arizona, Chakraborty was unable to talk to people easily and struggled a lot with this aspect of journalism. However, as the year progressed, she became more comfortable with meeting new people, and grew confident as a person. Now she is able to talk to people more openly about their lives and opinions.

“I definitely owe [it] to her for getting me out there,” Chakraborty said.

Part of the same Writing for Publication class, sophomore Sunjin Chang has also felt a shift in her life because of Balmeo’s absence. Because of her strong interest in literature, this class helped her develop her writing skills and learn more about the subject, as Chang described Balmeo as easy to approach.

Although she was not a part of the Journalism class last year, Chang spent a lot of time in A111, the journalism room, with her friends and remembers the room well. When she comes back to the room this year, she feels an absence in the atmosphere. Chang said that if she had not moved to Oregon, she would reach out and visit her more, as Balmeo was the teacher who encouraged Chang’s passion in writing and gave her new perspectives, leaving a large influence on her.

“She didn’t purposefully leave [a legacy],” Chang said, “but [it was] just the way she took care of us and her leadership [that] really leaves an impact on us.”

Yet Balmeo wasn’t the only teacher who left a large impact on her students. Just a few steps from the Writing for Publication room is A112, where Balmeo’s husband and teacher Andrew Sturgill had taught World Core History and American Studies. Sturgill had moved along with Balmeo and their two children to Oregon, leaving their careers at Monta Vista High School behind them.

For senior Varun Sivarajan Thiruvadi, this meant that he could no longer come to Sturgill’s classroom and talk to one of his most influential teachers. Although Thiruvadi only had Sturgill as his teacher during his sophomore year in World Core, he often spent time in the classroom during his junior year as well.

“I had somewhere to go at all times,” Thiruvadi said, “[It was just] a nice environment to be in.”

Although Sturgill is no longer here, Thiruvadi uses the skill of student-teacher communication that Sturgill has taught him to try and establish new relationships with his current teachers, such as his Economics teacher. Currently, Thiruvadi is trying to create a connection with other teachers so that he will be able to talk to them comfortably.  He feels as though he has become more open to approaching new things after taking World Core.

“I think that’s what [Sturgill has] done for a lot of kids, he’s made us more confident,” Thiruvadi said.

Like Thiruvadi, junior Ankita Mitra’s relationship with Scott Catrette helped her grow as a person by introducing her to new opportunities. Although she says that many consider him the hardest freshman literature teacher, she found that he was an easy teacher to talk to who had a lot of insight to offer on books and other literary topics. Mitra often consulted Catrette about her academics, allowing her to improve in the class and practice talking to teachers, which greatly impacted her relationships with present teachers. She was looking forward to studying AP literature from Catrette, she was upset that he had left.

“Although a lot of people seemed to find him more scary than anything else,”Mitra said. “I thought that he was incredible and I definitely miss him.”

But what Catrette is most remembered for is the academic rigor of his class. Mitra initially struggled with writing, as Catrette gave out many reading quizzes to test students, a style more common in classes for upperclassmen English. She remembers freshman literature being her first challenging class at Monta Vista. Although Mitra thought the class was very difficult, she believes it helped shape her current study habits and prepared her well for the increasing difficult classes she now takes.

“I think that his ability to improve people’s writing is strangely incredible,” Mitra said, “I’ve never had any other class where my skills have improved such a huge deal.”

Mitra believes that Catrette’s class is the reason why she is able to succeed in her classes now in the midst of the competitive environment of Monta Vista. What many teachers do for their students is not only prepare them for their upcoming classes, but help them grow as people to prepare them for the upcoming years of their lives.

“He gave [me] the first taste into this kind of world, and that definitely helped me in [the] future,” Mitra said.