Venice Veterans Share Their Stories

Kayla Wilson, Features Editor

This story was originally published in the December Issue of the 2022-2023 school year.

Venice High School has so many wonderful teachers. Every year we always recognize teachers for their wonderful dedication and hard work they put into helping students and adding to campus life. 

Over time the way teachers teach their classes has changed—but have the students changed, too? 

The Oarsman asked some of our school’s longest standing teachers—veterans who have seen Venice old and Venice new—about the biggest shifts since they’ve started working here and now. What’s the same? What’s different?

 

Music teacher Wendy Sarnoff43 years

Music teacher Wendy Sarnoff said that her teaching journey has been an adventure. 

When Sarnoff first came to Venice, she was originally a science teacher. But, she said that one of her goals was to also develop a music program.

“Music has such a huge impact on students,” she said.

Her journey—from leading marching band, starting a choir class, and working part-time as a science teacher has come far. 

COVID has changed the dynamic for students, she said, which took students from a social environment to an individual environment. 

She feels that students are a lot more dedicated, focused, and challenge themselves more this year coming back after the pandemic. 

As the community has changed with gentrification it’s raised the bar for the school. 

The journey is still developing for Sarnoff. She said that she recently received a $1,500 grant that will be used to develop recording facilities on campus. 

Math teacher John Bruno—32 years 

Math teacher John Bruno said that the biggest change in his teaching career has been students’ attention span and motivation. 

Phones have become such a huge impact on students, he said. It’s made students get easily distracted with focusing and paying attention “because they want to see what’s going on on their phone and they’re so used to watching TikTok videos.”

“I love working with students. I love it, I mean that’s why I’m a teacher. I want them to be successful,” he said. 

But students are much bigger procrastinators and make up many more excuses now compared to back then, Bruno said. “They want 59 chances to do things now, you know. If students were better planners. It wouldn’t happen.”

Bruno said he has which he’s very happy to be teaching statistics because it’s based on data. “We use it all the time in the real world,” he said.

That’s the  biggest change he said  he’s seen in the mathematics world—the evolution of thinking and analyzing data instead of solving for x. 

Bruno said that getting messages from his students, especially when he’s had illness over the past few years, often means more to him than some of his family members.  

His students are what keeps him going. Being in the classroom with my students is his favorite thing. “I couldn’t couldn’t see myself doing any other job. 

Japanese teacher Trasey Nomachi30 years 

Japanese teacher Trasey Nomachi said that the biggest change in students from the time she started working at Venice to now is that students are more aware of what happens in the world. 

She’s also noticed that students are more aware of their own mental health when they need it —but they have less with some things. 

The roles of teachers has changed overtime, too. “There’s demands for things teachers need to do that do not involve directly teaching a student,” she said

She said that’s a very heavy burden on the teachers. And not only because the students were impacted by a pandemic, but teachers were too. 

She just loves teaching and loves seeing the students grow throughout four years of high school, coming in “ like diamonds in the rough.” 

Advice Nomachi said she’d give any new teacher is “ go with the flow to adapt.”

“Each class is different in terms of personality and flow, but stay true to how you believe students are best able to learn,” she said. “Use that, but remain flexible enough that you won’t push yourself to grief.”

Coach Angelo Gasca29 years 

Being a teacher has its love and fun but being a coach is something Gasca has always had a love for.

He says human nature is what it is. People who play football or really any sport are doing it because they have a love for the game. 

In his case, being part of the team has made him a better person and given him a sense of purpose, a reason to focus more and try harder in all the aspects of my life. 

He thinks most teachers get into teaching because of a teacher that impacted their life and made them feel like it’s something that they can do. 

Gasca says he never envisioned himself teaching as a teacher when he was a high school student, maybe even as a college student. 

Somehow he says he fell into teaching special ED and fell in love with it. 

At the end of the day I was coaching these guys that had incredible gifts that could do so much and somehow maybe weren’t as happy. 

“You know usually when you’re not in a situation like a special ED situation you may not notice,”  he said.

It made him feel like that was something he could really do for the rest of his life and so he has hope. 

“I guess I became a teacher most of all because my coaches impacted me in a way that made me feel like they cared,” Gasca said.

He isn’t the only student that was a student at venice and is now teaching at venice it goes in your blood. 

When a teacher leaves a part a venice will always be with them and a part of them will always be at venice and in that way they’ll always be connected. 

For him that’s the special feeling he gets about being a part of Venice high school is the connection between so many families and so many people who have history at the school and in their families. 

Math teacher Walter Fujita—27 years teaching

Testing has now become a big part of education as well. Fujita said that he think testing keeps breaking the consistency of learning because all of sudden they have to pause and do more testing. 

“It feels like we’re doing testing every three weeks,” he said. 

He says he isn’t saying to get rid of the testing because there has to be some benchmark to know where students are, but now it’s taken up a lot of time. 

Some advice Fujita would give for new teachers is making sure you have discipline in the classroom. 

“If you don’t have discipline in the classroom then it’s going to be very difficult to teach,” he said.

It is very important they know how to deal with the younger students who like talking, as well as phone issues. But he also said you just need to figure out what your structure is.

He likes to keep his class to where they are in the same pattern everyday. 

Fujita loves teaching because of the kids. Soon he can retire, he said, but he takes it year by year. Over the summer he misses the kids. 

He’ll sometimes get a letter which he’ll store away and when he’s feeling down he’ll read it as a little pick-me-up. Those students that have given notes off thanks or encouragement “never know how much they mean” to me, he said. 

English Teacher Ruth Greene20 years 

The way English has been taught is different than the past, especially because of more today’s  more culturally responsive curriculums, according to English teacher Ruth Greene..

“Things have changed a lot even in my lifetime,” she said.

She enjoys the newer ways of teaching with technology being able to use resources like Google Docs and hyperlinks. Schoology has become a big part of her teaching. 

Not all teachers were on it as much before COVID—but now a lot more teachers are using technology in their teaching and using Schoology.

She said she’s slowly moving back into her old school teaching ways but also loves the possibilities with the access to the internet.  “There’s no way I’m going to have a stack of dictionaries anymore in this class. I mean that’s pointless.” 

Greene said that there should always be some old school things that stay the same. Like the format of essays. 

Greene said that she didn’t expect to take on certain roles as a teacher like janitor, nurse, and therapist. 

She said that taking on all these roles is a lot sometimes, but when a student comes to her talking about something, she knows where to get help for them.