Curious Timberwolves: Student Questions for Staff


Image by Mt. SAC Early College Academy Staff

Curious students express pressing questions for the 2020 to 2021 Mt. SAC Early College Academy staff depicted bonding within the featured image.

With pandemic restrictions relaxing and schools reopening, students have various questions for faculty members. Answering questions regarding subjects from life advice to favorite Disney movies, Mt. SAC Early College Academy faculty and staff are welcome to answer students’ pressing questions.



“Do you think quarantine has changed you? How so?”

With the challenges and obstacles of the current pandemic, numerous teachers have gained essential experience and insight,

As the first school gathering during the 2020 to 2021 school year, Mt. SAC Early College Academy staff participate within a socially distanced lunch on campus! (Ms. Maggiore)

including Ms. Banh and Ms. Sprague.


Ms. Banh – Science Teacher
“I think quarantine has made me a more independent person. I’ve always been someone who loved being around people and really enjoyed spending time with my friends. However, when we were forced to quarantine, I had to become comfortable with spending time alone. Initially, this was very hard for me, but over time I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy the time I get to spend alone. I can do whatever I like and I have time to reflect on my own thoughts and feelings!”


Ms. Sprague – Math Teacher
“Quarantine has definitely changed me! I have been fortunate [and grateful] to be able to live with my close family during the quarantine [and] to have turned the time I would spend commuting from home to work (1-1.5 hours/day) as time to exercise outside…My overall health and happiness improved so much from this small change in my daily life. Even when I go back to driving to work next year, I plan to prioritize walks during lunch or gym time after school to keep up being active. One of the most difficult parts of quarantine has been how much it has changed and impacted my job as a math teacher…with figuring out the best way to teach math on google meets and how to help our students. I constantly try new activities to figure out what works best and what engages students the most. [Though] in-person school [is irreplaceable], I hope our students know I am trying my best for them and I have their best interest at heart.”



“[What is your f]avorite Disney movie?”

From The Sword in the Stone to Zootopia, the faculty and staff of Mt. SAC Early College Academy adore a vast variety of Disney films.


Ms. Hoffman – Art Teacher
“The Sword in the Stone! Although not many people know the movie, it is fantastic and has so many good references and quotations. Plus as a child I had the movie on VHS and we would watch it on repeat!!!”


Ms. Contreras – High School Counselor
“There are so many to choose from so I can’t choose just one. Here’s some of my favorites that I could watch over and over. Little Mermaid, Lion King, Toy Story, and Zootopia.”



“What advice would you give students about life who [are] too shy to ask? What communities have been a huge part of your life?”

Garnering essential experience and knowledge through supportive communities and previous encounters, teachers are welcome to provide students with personal insight.


Ms. Maggiore – College and Career Readiness Teacher, Math Teacher, and Assistant Principal
“There’s a line in a song I like that goes something like, ‘…there’s another sunrise coming all but one of the times it sets.’ I think about this and think it reflects the truth that tomorrow is promised to no one. So if I were to give advice it would be to live every day to its fullest. Don’t be afraid to do things that scare and challenge you, because one day you’ll look back and will have lived a full life, and that will feel pretty good. If we wait to do things, we run the risk of not living our dreams.”


Ms. Banh – Science Teacher
“As for life advice, this is probably what I would tell all of my students: things probably seem very confusing[,] you’re not sure who you are [and] how you fit into the world…As you get older, however, you will eventually become much more comfortable with who you are…All of your life experiences…will shape you into the person you are supposed to be[;] I have no doubt that you will all grow into wonderful, intelligent adults who do amazing things. Be comfortable with growth and change! These experiences can sometimes be painful and that’s okay[;] allow yourself to feel those emotions[,] learn from them and continue moving forward. The communities that have been the biggest part of my life are probably my friends, my family, and my culture. These all help to keep me grounded when I feel like I’m losing touch with who I am.”



“How much free time do you have after school, and after planning for class?”

Following academic obligations, teachers often utilize available “free time” to complete hobbies, activities, and external responsibilities ranging from baking to exercising.


Within the Mt. SAC Early College Academy “12 Months of 2020” compilation, Mr. Janadi features his two children! (Mr. Janadi )

Mr. Janadi – Science Teacher
“Planning lessons and grading takes up a rather significant portion of my time outside of class. Additionally, when I’m not working on school-related things, I’m mostly helping take care of and playing with my children. But I do get an hour or two of free time most days.”



Ms. Sprague – Math Teacher
“After school, I spend my free time cooking dinner, reading or watching Netflix. I start making dinner around 5:30-6:00 pm for my family and we finish eating and cleaning up between 6:30-7:00 pm. After 7 pm and until bedtime, I spend any free time reading or starting a new Netflix series. On the weekends, when I have more time, I like to talk my dogs on a morning hike and bake and experiment with sugar-free desserts.”



“[Why] did you pursue a career in teaching?”

Pursuing an occupation in teaching, teachers share previous experiences inspiring their career choices, including influential encounters and personal values.


Ms. Banh – Science Teacher
“I started teaching because I realized in college that I loved helping and educating others. When I decided to switch career paths, it was because I had realized that I had been teaching and working with students for a very long time, either through volunteering or tutoring. I always found these experiences to be extremely rewarding, much more so than pursuing medicine or research, which were the primary career options for my major.”


Ms. Mendoza – Spanish Teacher
“When I was in kindergarten I really liked my teacher and thought it was so fun, so I always said I wanted to be a teacher. As I got older, I realized how much I loved being around students and helping and being a mentor that I decided to go into teaching. When I got into high school, I had a mentor who talked to me a lot about Special Education while I was a T.A. for an inclusive math class. I had a huge moment while being a T.A for that class as well as working in a ROP classroom with a girl on the spectrum when I realized how many educators do not care or are not fit to teach this population of students and wanted to make a difference for those students[; thus, pushing] me towards where I am now getting my Masters in Inclusive Teaching.”



“[What is your favorite dish?”

With a culturally diverse community of teachers and students, teachers share their favorite dishes ranging from mushroom risotto to shrimp fajitas.


Ms. Wilcox – History Teacher and Associated Student Body Advisor
“Mushroom Risotto; I could eat it every single day and never get sick of it!”

Ms. Contreras – High School Counselor
“Tamales with beans and rice. I enjoy any type of mexican food as long as there’s lots of cheese, beans, and rice.”



“How have you been doing during quarantine?”

With increased positivity, focus, and self-reflection, teachers share their experiences during quarantine.


Ms. Mendoza – Spanish Teacher
“I have been good, lots of self- reflection and taking some time to re-evaluate what I want my mission/vision to be. I have been focused on getting my program done and how to make distance learning a little more tolerable.”


Mr. Janadi – Science Teacher
“I’ve actually been doing pretty well during quarantine. I’ve had a lot to keep me busy. However, I do miss seeing people in person and interacting with them face-to-face. It’ll be nice to finally be able to do that again.”



“Who is your role model in this world? Why?”

Ranging from siblings to celebrities, teachers possess various role models.


Mr. Ortiz – History Teacher
“My parents are great role mo

dels. They are one of the many reasons why I was able to succeed in my life so far.”


Ms. Yao – Physical Education and Math Teacher
“I have two role models[:] my grandmother [and father]. [My grandmother] made many sacrifices as a single parent for my mother and her 5 siblings…She was basically a second mother to me throughout my childhood [and] is where my very dry humor comes from. She was the person that always made me feel loved…whether she cooked a special meal for me or tried to make me feel better by slathering VIX vapor rub all over me. She is my superwoman! My second role model is my father [as] I have always admired his amazing work ethic and how he always does everything with 100% effort. He is kind, generous, loyal, incredibly empathetic, and has so much integrity. He was so dedicated to helping me be a better softball player[, taking] me to every [lesson and] practice. Then he would make time…to practice outside of…scheduled practices. I don’t know where I would be without the both of them! I’m one lucky person!”



“What was their dream career before deciding to be a teacher? What subject would you hate teaching?”

Ranging from pediatrics to baking, teachers share their “dream careers” before deciding upon a teaching occupation.


Ms. Maggiore – College and Career Readiness Teacher, Math Teacher, and Assistant Principal
“I was a Forest Ranger before I started teaching. I guess that would still be a dream career, but teaching is still better…I would be a horrible art teacher. I know Ms. Hoffman (shout out!) would say everyone can make art, but I’m legit not a very good artist and am challenged by creativity.”


Ms. Sprague – Math Teacher
“My dream career has always been a math teacher! Now that I am there– I think I now consider my dream retirement job to one day own a bakery to sell homemade baked goods with a coffee

shop or studyplace vibe. A subject I would not like to teach is history (sorry, Ms. Wilcox!)– there are just too many battles, places, dates to learn about and I was forced to memorize them to pass tests when I was in school.”

This collage features images of the prettiest places Ms. Yao has ever seen! (Ms. Yao)



“[What is the] prettiest place they have ever seen?”

Enjoying travel and adventure, teachers share the prettiest places they have ever seen, ranging from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Venice Canal.


Ms. Yao – Physical Education and Math Teacher
“This is also a tough question!…The Venice Canal in Venice, Italy[,] The Colosseum in Rome, Italy[,] Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy[,] Portland, Oregon[, and] Lanikai Beach, Hawaii.”



As one of the prettiest places Ms. Hoffman has ever seen, this image features Ms. Hoffman and her sister visiting Iceland! (Ms. Hoffman)

Ms. Hoffman – Art Teacher
“I went on a trip right before I started working at Mt. SAC to Iceland with my sister! It was one of the best trips I have ever been on, and it was during Iceland’s summer sun, so the sun never set! We went to see this spectacular waterfall, and I would have to say that really sticks out in my mind! I attached a photo of us there for good measure. Another beautiful place I would have to say is June Lake California, I grew up visiting there and I think I find it incredibly spectacular for nostalgic reasons (although, it really is exquisite!)”



“What was your favorite club/extracurricular that you completed in high school?”

Ranging from choir to softball, teachers engaged in numerous extracurricular activities during high school.


Mr. Ortiz – History Teacher
“From my sophomore year to my senior year, I was involved in Concert Choir and Vocal Ensemble. I was able to travel to San Francisco and Santa Barbara during choir tours. Being in choir allowed me to explore California with my friends.”


Ms. Hoffman – Art Teacher
“I played water polo in high school! And the reason I got into the sport…was because my sister played it, and I wanted to be better than her! Ha! I was incredibly dedicated to waterpolo throughout high school and coll[e]ge, and it really taught me a lot! However, because I was so focused on one thing, I did not branch out and do all the things I wish I had (like being a…part of Interact!) So my one piece of advice is – TRY DIFFERENT THINGS, don’t only focus on one! You never know what you will like!”



“Ms. Yao, do you help students find sports leagues to join?”

With limited availability and distance learning, Ms. Yao has been unable to assist students with sports league enrollment; however, Ms. Yao is welcome to aid students in sports connections during future opportunities.


Ms. Yao – Physical Education and Math Teacher
“I have not yet since last year was my first year at MECA and we’ve done distant learning for over a year at this point. However, I would love to connect students with sport/activities outside of school if we do not offer it!”



“When did Ms. Yao know she wanted to become a P.E. teacher?”

Ms. Yao wanted to become a Physical Education teacher during previous college encounters.


Ms. Yao – Physical Education and Math Teacher
“I knew I wanted to be a PE teacher when I got to college. I started at Penn State as a civil engineering major but realized it wasn’t for me after my first semester. After being undecided for a year, I really thought about what I loved to do. As a young softball player, my fielding coach asked me to help him with his group lessons. I jumped at the opportunity and loved helping others get better. I remembered that feeling and saw PE as an opportunity to help others develop various skills and have fun! I think I made the right choice!”



“Ms. Berrong, how does it feel to be a mother to 100+ students?”

Ms. Berrong is honored to be considered a “mother” amongst her students.


Ms. Berrong – English Teacher
“Okay, this question totally made me laugh. Honestly, though? Most days it feels pretty great. It’s honestly a privilege to help usher adolescents into adulthood, so if they see me as a mother (or grandmother!) figure, then I’ll wear that as a badge of honor!”



“I have a question for Ms. Berrong. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned being a teacher?”

Ms. Berrong believes the greatest insight she has learned as a teacher is the immense creativity and perception of motivated students.

Ms. Berrong – English Teacher
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that when students are encouraged to be curious about what they are learning and to think creatively, their questions are far more interesting and deeper than any facts or answers that I could ever provide!”



“What is Ms. Hoffman’s favorite art piece that she has made?”

With an appreciation of plants and gardening, Ms. Hoffman’s favorite artwork depicts a painted artichoke.

This image features Ms. Hoffman’s favorite artwork: her artichoke painting! (Ms. Hoffman)


Ms. Hoffman – Art Teacher
“I love this question!!!! I would have to say my favorite painting recently would be my artichoke painting. This year has been quite crazy, and I haven’t been really making my own artwork as much (teachers struggle with creative block as well!) I painted this image last Summer, and it was a spur of the moment creative energy. As everyone knows, I LOVE PLANTS, and [I] love gardening. I spoke to a friend about growing artichokes and she told me how ugly the plant was since [it’s] essentially a large thistle….. I still planted it anyway… right when COVID hit I continued to nurture and watch this artichoke plant bloom and blossom. I found it to be so beautiful! I painted this as a celebration of the artichoke plant, and as a way of processing the world around me – an abstract self portrait if you will. Moving forward, I want to challenge myself to paint an artichoke every year, to see how my interpretation of it changes (an annual self portrait).”



“How much does counseling students mean to Mrs. Contreras?”

As a counselor, Ms. Contreras thoroughly enjoys supporting and empowering students.


Ms. Contreras – High School Counselor
“I feel so fortunate to be a school counselor. There is truly nothing else I would rather do than spend every day listening to students and supporting them with their academic, personal, and college and career paths. My goal is to empower students so that they feel confident in taking on challenges and trying new things.”



“Ms. Wilcox. If you could travel anywhere in the world, right now, where would you go?”

Enjoying island-hopping, yoga, exploration, and adventure, Ms. Wilcox aspires to travel to Indonesia.


Ms. Wilcox – History Teacher and Associated Student Body Advisor
“I have always wanted to travel [to] Indonesia, so I think that would be at the top of my list. I like the idea of island-hopping, doing lots of yoga, exploring jungles, and eating a lot of natural foods. I feel like that is a trip that would be great for self-reflection, so I might even like to do it solo!”



“For history teachers: What is your favor[ite] historical era/topic?”

As the Mt. SAC Early College Academy history teachers, Ms. Wilcox and Mr. Ortiz favor the Industrial Revolution, American imperialism, American History, and American Government topics.


Ms. Wilcox – History Teacher and Associated Student Body Advisor
“For world history, I like teaching the Industrial Revolution the most because it explains the root of many of the social and environmental issues that plague the world today. For US History, I am most excited to teach American imperialism; I think it will be a good unit to critique American exceptionalism!”


Mr. Ortiz – History Teacher
“My favorite historical topics are American History and American Government. They are my favorite because these topics made me fall in love with the subject of History.”



Overall, Mt. SAC Early College Academy is filled with remarkable faculty members welcome to sharing insights and experiences with curious students! Teachers and staff are contactable through email available upon the Mt. SAC Early College Academy directory webpage.