Introducing The New Teachers Of Venice High This School Year


Ellie Zamir and Ziaryth Ochoa

Haley Couch, Robert Gavidia, and Ziaryth Ochoa

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s a new school year at Venice High, and with the new year comes several great new teachers.

Learn more about some of the new faces you’ll see on campus this year.

English Teacher Samantha Cline

New Venice High English teacher Samantha Cline has always described herself as a “really big bookworm,” starting from her childhood. She also credits her English teachers in high school and others for making “huge impacts on her life and educational goals.”

While Cline had always enjoyed literature, a career in teaching wasn’t always in her sights. Going out of high school she was “pretty sure” that she wanted to be a doctor and started out getting a degree in molecular biology in college. 

“I realized part way through that it wasn’t for me” she said. 

She eventually fell into teaching through tutoring in college. That’s where she realized that teaching people, as well as students teaching her valuable things as well, was “very rewarding.” 

The reason she chose to teach at Venice High was because she thought teaching at her local high school “would be the best way to get to be a part of the community.” 

 While she admitted teaching in a high school now has been an adjustment for her, she finds it to be a “really exciting one.” Cline finds the Venice campus and community to be beautiful and she likes being in the place where the 1978 film Grease was filmed because she loved watching it growing up. 

Outside of school Cline enjoys baking, riding her bike, reading of course, and she took up gardening during the pandemic. 

Inside of school, Cline has yet to become a part of any club or activities at Venice, but she would eventually “love to help run something on campus or take part in the community”.

English Teacher Helen Cook

English teacher Helen Cook is “excited and grateful to be starting a new school year at Venice.”

Starting here last January, Cook teaches Expository Composition, World Literature and ELD classes.

She was born and raised in Huntington Beach and has appreciated literature all her life.

”I’ve always loved literature—the art of written words and the humanities aspect of it,” she said. “One of the reasons why I continually choose to teach literature is so our young scholars also begin to love and appreciate the beauty of language, literature, and humanities.”

Hobbies Cook enjoys outside of school is gardening, walks on the beach, playing with her two puppies Juju and Schnickers.

Cook has a soft spot especially for her senior students. 

“My experience at Venice has been wonderful,” she said. “I especially love our seniors this year.”

Social Studies Teacher Leah DiVincenzo

Social studies teacher Leah DiVincenzo is very excited to be at Venice High.

Starting here last March, DiVencenzo teaches AP U.S. History and Government/ Economics. In addition, she also helps coach the cross country teams.

Originally from Wilmer, Alabama, she enjoys activities like yoga.

“I love practicing yoga—not just the physical practice but also the mental and emotional practice,” she said. “I think it guides me in my life.”

DiVencenzo is also a fan of anything outside, like camping and backpacking. She does note that she likes“forests more than deserts.”

In addition, DiVencenzo is excited to soon be helping volunteer coach the cross country team along with helping out with Students Run LA.

Originally, she was planning to major in medicine during her college days but her plan changed quickly when during her freshman year she had a history teacher who made her passionate about history. 

As for what activities she enjoys at school: she enjoys going to sports games. She aims to go to every sports team at Venice’s game at least once. 

Around the area, she enjoys going to the boardwalk and recommends Small World Books. She is open to recommendations and is excited to explore the Venice area more.

English Teacher Alba Gutierrez Polanco

English teacher Alba Gutierrez Polanco loves anime, K-Pop artists like BTS, and romance books that draw you in.

”I feel it’s like a way to get away from real life,” Gutierrez said. 

            When she is out of school she likes reading young adult love stories.

“I still stick with reading. I really like romantic novels,” she said. “Even when I’m not teaching I am with some type of book.” 

Gutierrez loves Twilight, a young-adult vampire-romance novel by author Stephenie Meyer and she likes Hazuo Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle. 

According to Gutierrez, she was inspired to do this job because of her brother. She wants to help kids that need more guidance in school.

She went to UCI and UCLA, graduating with a degree in English and a Master’s in teaching. 

Special Education Teacher Chad Klafter

Chad Klafter wanted to be a special education teacher because his mother was in the field. He now has 14 years of experience.

”I chose Venice for the location,” he said. “I heard It’s a really good school.”

When Klafter was in high school, he wanted to be a professional football player. He was also the wide receiver on his team. Klafter liked the physicality of it and thought it was fun.

“But that didn’t happen,” he said. 

Before he did special education he wanted to be a nurse. But he changed his mind at the “spur of the moment.”

Klafter went to California State University, Northridge in 2020 and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies. 

”I like how it got me to where I am today, so I would not change it,” he said.  

When Klafter is out of school he likes the outdoors. He enjoys hiking and going to the beach particularly. 

Health and Physical Education Teacher Chelsea Rice

Chelsea Rice said she always “grew up around sports,” which is why she enjoys teaching Health and Physical Education. 

Something that is important to Rice “getting kids to lead a healthy, active lifestyle from a young age instead of finding it later in life.”

So far Rice said her experience at Venice has been “really great” and describes students and staff as “really welcoming.” 

She can rely on the office to help her with any questions and be “greeted with a smile”  She chose Venice High because she heard great things about the school, and she even enjoys biking to school.

Before she started teaching, Rice got her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Middle Tennessee State University and intended to go into physical therapy. But she received an opportunity to play beach volleyball, which meant she wouldn’t be able to attend physical therapy school. 

She received her Master’s in Education at Georgia State University and then took the volleyball opportunity.

Rice has been in California since 2018 and is even trying to play professional beach volleyball while having a teaching career.

Other new teachers you’ll see around this year include:

English teacher Jacqueline Franco

Biology Michael Hsu

French teacher Betina Joli

Sports medicine teacher Jason Noonan

Law teacher Catherine Rodriquez