New Faces of Education: Meet the incoming teachers of Venice High

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A new school year is a fresh breath of air not only for the returning students and staff, but also for the incoming teachers. Venice High welcomes the new faces of education for the 2021-2022 school year. 


Alejandro Arroyo

History teacher Alejandro Arroyo ’13 is happy to be back at Venice High—this time as a teacher.

“It’s like coming back home,” Arroyo said.

Venice High is the first school Arroyo has taught at. He got his Bachelor of History at UCLA, and his Masters of Secondary Education at Loyola Marymount.

As someone who grew up in Culver City, Arroyo feels very comfortable at Venice and likes that a lot of his students live there. 

“A lot of my students are from there so it’s nice to have that in common with them,” he said.


Lenny Beckerman

For years Lenny Beckerman worked in the film industry as a film producer, director and writer. 

But he decided to change careers and become a history teacher, and he’s glad to teach at Venice High.

“I love Venice,” he said. “I want to be a part of Venice’s history.”

Outside of school, Beckerman doesn’t shy away from such activities as snowboarding and making movies. 

Beckerman was born in Uzbekistan and moved to New York City when he was five years old. He moved to New Jersey at 15, and later went to Ohio University and University of Southern California.


Claire Crouse

Claire Crouse has only been teaching at Venice High for a few weeks, but she’s already got a good sense of what it’s like to be a part of the Venice community.

“I love the diversity of students,” she said. “I feel very lucky to be in this brand new building,” referring to the recently opened Science Building. 

Crouse grew up in Indiana and wanted to go into medicine until during her senior year at college she became interested in teaching. Before coming to Venice, she taught chemistry and AP Environmental Science in Denver for seven years.   


Michelle Fox

New Math Teacher, Michelle Fox, doesn’t like cold weather.

A teacher from Milwaukee Wisconsin, she wanted to move out to California for a long time. Then she heard about an opening at Venice High. 

Fox loves being a teacher. 

“I always tell people that the moment you stop enjoying being a teacher, it’s the time to retire,” she said. 

Fox went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and actually was planning to become an accountant. However, she thought that it was not interesting, and teaching was a much better fit for her. 

So far, Fox loves Venice, thinking that the kids, campus, and staff are all very nice. 

“I have nothing to be sad about,” she said.

Looking forward, Fox has a positive outlook.

“It’s a brand new day, every single day,” she said.


Sophie Lafferty

Math teacher Sophie Lafferty loved school when she was growing up. As a child, Lafferty would tell her mom the way she’d teach if she was a teacher. 

Ever since she was little, growing up in Pittsburgh, she wanted to be a teacher, among other things. It wasn’t until her senior year of college that she decided to become a teacher. 

“My senior year at Rice University I said to myself, you know what, I’m going to be a teacher,” she said. Her interest in teaching math was surprising considering she majored in Asian studies.

Lafferty has many interests and talents, which include playing the violin and piano. She’s played violin since a young age and still plays it to this day. 

She is looking forward to watching students grow year by year and  achieve their goals.


Joseph Schwab

History teacher Joseph Schwab comes from a family of educators. His ultimate goal is to be the best teacher possible for his students. 

“Something that I definitely was able to notice right off the bat is the high caliber amount of students that come to the school—the intelligence that flows through each and every one of the hallways,” he said, elaborating on his first impressions of being at Venice. 

There wasn’t a single aspect of Venice that did not scream “amazing” for Schwab. He knew right away that this is where he wanted to be. 

“I’ve heard nothing but amazing things across the district, from friends, from family, and when I saw that Venice was hiring, they really were the first school that I had my eyes set upon,” he said. 

A UC Riverside graduate with two degrees in U.S. history and Spanish literature, Schawb said that his teaching approach lies in always putting himself in the position of his students—although, he himself was a considerably different high schooler than he is a teacher. 

“We’re all people and we’re all here to accomplish one goal, and that’s to get a higher level of education and open up these opportunities for us to be able to accomplish these goals,” he said. “I do whatever I can to be approachable, transparent, and easily accessible to my students.” 

A teacher with diverse interests, Schwab is a musician—a drummer since his childhood, a trumpeter, and a clarinetist—and an avid fan of reading. However, his interests are not limited to the arts. He’s also a gamer and a skilled skater who can even do a kickflip. 

“I love, love literature,” he said. “Anything from fantasy to non-fiction to any fiction book you can find.” 

The California native added that he’s skateboarding “for quite some years now, since about 11 or 12, maybe.”  

Schwab is wholeheartedly dedicated to building up the confidence needed by the students to become successful in high school and afterwards and hopes that he will remain a teacher for the rest of his life. 


David Terrazas

New Biology teacher, David Terrazas, is excited to start teaching here at Venice High.

Terrazas loves being a teacher because he loves getting to know his students. 

“Obviously we learn and do work and stuff in class, but those times when we get to mess around a little bit or have conversations—those are some of the best parts for me,” he said.

Terrazas first visited Venice High School back in June while he went out with the Science Department to get boba. Terrazas toured the school and was left with a good first impression, impressed by the new buildings, nice planters, and thought that it looked like a good school. 

Terrazas is from Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He went to UC Irvine for undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences and is currently at UCLA for a masters in education. 

Terrazas was planning to become a doctor, but ran educational programs for almost eight years. He really enjoyed teaching others, and made the decision to become a teacher. 

His background in the medical field plays a big role in his teachings.
    “At the beginning I would come in super nervous and worried,” he said. “But by the end of the day, you all made me feel like ‘Okay, it was a good day, having a good time.’”


Matthew Waller

Basketball, inspiring kids, and staying physical are all important to Matthew Waller.

A parent of a student here, he has taught at Venice High for five years prior as a basketball coach, teaching freshmen and sophomores. 

Then his friend asked him if he could take up the job.

“To be eligible for the job, it’s like everything fell in place like magic,” he said. 

Waller grew up in Los Angeles, and attended Crenshaw High, where he fell in love with basketball. He went to Cal State Dominguez Hills and studied kinesiology. 

Waller enjoys teaching physical education. He likes helping the kids, and teaching them how to stay healthy. 


Along with other teachers, the school welcomes Simim Madjdi, Genesis Delgado, Miguel Diaz, Amira Kerkache, Mariah Lara, Maria De Jesus Lopez Zamudio, Camille Morris, Patricia Nieto, Sue Oh, Shellee Perez, Reynaldo Silva, Martina Urrutia and Brian Bailey.


With eagerness and open arms, the students and staff of Venice High School welcome the incoming teachers, and hope for the brightest of futures for the newest educators of the school.