Retiring Teachers 2018

April Cuarenta and Alicia Valenciana, Asst. News Editor and News Editor

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Mireya Curiel


Chemistry and Biology Teacher

Ms. Salibian is leaving teaching after 30 years. Born and raised in the Middle East in the country of Lebanon, Salibian dedicated 11 years of her career to teaching Chemistry and Biology at Venice High.

 She has a masters in Food Processing/ Managing and a Bachelors in Biotechnology. Salibian migrated to the United States at the age of 35, searching for more job opportunities since the availability of work for women in the fields she had studied  were not that high in her country.

  “I like to learn new things and I like to be with people and teach,” said Ms.Salibian. “This job gives me the opportunity to do that, so teaching was a better fit for me,” she said.

After asking her what it feels like to finally resign, Ms. Salibian said, “ It doesn’t feel good, I don’t want to do it, but I think it’s important to take care of my health, while I still have my health.”

“ I love the students, I’ll miss them but there’s a time and place for everything this is my time. I’ll miss all of the teachers and I’ll specifically miss Ms. Roberts, we’ve spent a lot of time together since I’ve been here,” said Salibian.  

She hopes that retiring will allow her to spend more time with her grandchildren. I’m going to hike more and learn how to bike, swim and do some volunteer work.  

“I think the thing I’ve grown to love the most is seeing all of my students mature over the years, seeing them grow into these young adults makes me realize that all of my work has been worthwhile,” said Ms. Salibian.

She hopes to be remembered for her particular way of pronouncing certain words and as a caring, energetic, giving individual.

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Margo Fownes

Painting & Intro To Art teacher

Ms. Margo Fownes has been teaching for a total of 42 years. She has been a part of LAUSD for 33 years and 22 of those years were at  Venice High School. The subjects she taught were Intro to Art, Painting and special education classes.

Ms. Fownes was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended the Philadelphia College of Arts to get her teaching credential and went to Temple University to get her masters.

“I’m excited but at the same time scared. It’s a very rewarding profession, I know it’s going to be hard to make that switch but now I’ll have time to work on my art,” said Ms. Fownes.

Her husband talked her into retiring so now they’ll both be retiring and traveling together.  She hopes to travel first to Africa.

Ms. Fownes plans to stay in the community she lives in. Some of the activities she wants to engage in are taking art classes and taking jewelry-making class.

     The biggest lesson or philosophy she learned was to be persistent and understanding with the students and to make the classroom a calm place to be.

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Judith Cooper

Health, Law and Youth teacher

     Ms. Judith Cooper is the only Health and Law and Youth teacher at Venice High. She attended the University of California Los Angeles and graduated as a dental hygienist. Shortly after graduation she attended Loyola Marymount University to get her degree in Law.

Ms. Cooper used to be a singer on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s. She is also the reason why Teen Court was established at Venice High.

“Teen court is something I’m definitely going to miss, along with the commeradity of the staff at Venice,” said Ms. Cooper.

She plans to travel to the East Coast to attend her daughter’s wedding over the summer and to continue her studies in gemology,  the study of gems.

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Janet Morgan

Special Education teacher

Ms. Janet Morgan has taught at LAUSD for 16 years and Venice for six years. The first few years that she taught were all  general education classes. She then taught elementary school special day classes from 3rd to 5th grade in South Los Angeles.

Ms. Morgan attended Washington University in St. Louis and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional studies. She also took courses in technology at the LA County Office of Education and belonged to various  groups that helped students with learning disabilities.

Some of the reasons as to why Ms. Morgan decided to become an educator were because  she found that the people she interviewed for jobs when she worked in business were often illiterate and they could not solve a simple math problem. Ms. Morgan also decided to become a special education teacher because her son had  learning disabilities and she found that the system treated him unfairly.

“You can either fight the system, or become part of the change,” said Ms. Morgan on the matter.

Ms. Morgan finds her retirement bittersweet. She hopes that she will still be able to work with students in the future, just not in a school setting. She plans to visit Yellowstone as soon as the school year is over and she will continue living in the same community.

Some of the activities she will engage in are exercising and art. She wants to be remembered as a caring teacher and will miss all of the staff at Venice High.

Mireya Curiel

Mr. Yow Yieh Chang

Mr. Chang has been teaching here at Venice for the last seven years since 2011, and has been teaching math.

“I’ve been acting funny with all of my students. I try my best to help my students, but as we all know, most of the students work hard but every year, in every class, you can always see one or two students that do not care as much.

“After I retire, I plan to move back to Taiwan because my father is 95-years-old and he is in Taiwan by himself and I am the heir son. According to our Chinese tradition, I am responsible for him, so I will be back over there. Then, because my grandchildren are here in Los Angeles, of course I will move back.

“I think I have helped enough students. I know I did not and could not help all the students, but I hope I have helped many of them. I think most of them will do well when they continue onto their universities and their careers. I am proud of most of my students. I hope those few students that did not try hard enough can realize their mistakes and then change for the better and be successful in the future.

“I will miss Venice a lot because especially in the last seven years, I’ve seen many of my students grow. Boys grow from being boys to men and girls grow from being girls to women, both physically and intellectually. You can see the change. Very often when I come across them four or three years later, I am so amazed at how much they have changed.

“Some of them have come to talk to me and thank me for what help I have given to them. It was unexpected but I was very happy for them. “

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Gisele Sandouk

Ms. Sandouk has been here at Venice for 18 years, teaching Honors Biology and Honors Physiology in the World Language Magnet.

“In my spare time, I’ll probably be traveling, gardening, reading and resting. I don’t know yet.

“I’m sure I’m going to miss teaching and I’m going to miss the kids every day. You know, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, so I’m going to miss the rapport I have with the students.

“Hopefully, I left students with a love for learning and ongoing learning, not just what they learn in class but like to have the skills for them to go in their college years.

“When I joined the World Language Magnet, I had a great experience. The kids are great and they are all eager to learn, most of them at least. It was good.

“I’m sure the kids are going to remember,’Oh, Ms. Sandouk gives so much work!’ But hopefully, you know, after that first impression of me giving a lot of work, they will remember what they learned, how to study, and how to keep organized.”

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Courtney Lockwood

Ms. Lockwood started working here at Venice in February of 2003, totaling  15-and-a-half years. She currently teaches English, both AP English and regular to eleventh graders. Ms. Lockwood is also the lead teacher of the STEMM Magnet and has been the English department chair for many years.

“We are moving to Santa Barbara, so we have to get the house fixed up. We bought a house, so we’re working on that. I’ve already looked up classes at Santa Monica City College, and I’m going to take classes in sourdough bread making and in woodworking. I like to do things with my hands.  I also garden. I spend a lot of time gardening. Once we move up there, I’ll transfer my vegetable garden and move it up there.

“I did start the STEMM Magnet, so that’s going to be a lasting impact. That’s nice because I know that’s going to be here 20 years from now. On the whole, it’s probably helped the school.

“I hope the students leave knowing more, appreciating more what they read and write and have a better understanding of what they read and write.

“I’ll miss Venice because I’ve made a lot of friends here. At nutrition every day, most of the English teachers get together and talk and it’s just fun to share that time together. I’ll miss being around students because I think students can be very positive and give good feedback and responses. I enjoy being able to touch students’ lives.

“I’ll miss teaching in that teaching is pretty stimulating. All the time you’re trying to figure out how to do a better job at this. What can I do to change? How will I get my kids to understand concepts? That’s a pretty mentally challenging concept. I won’t miss the grading. The grading is constant, nonstop. I won’t miss that. But I’ll miss the interaction with the students.

“I think Venice is a great school. All together it’s been very positive.

“I want students to know that they have the potential to learn. It’s up to them. They control their destiny. I think I want them to know that if they try, they can succeed. They control what they do. I’d like them to realize that there’s a lot of fun in reading and they can get a lot out of it because reading opens doors. It opens windows.

“I hope people realize that education opens doors. If you have a 4.0 GPA, it’s not going to make you a successful person, but it gives you more options. It gives you more ideas and helps you succeed more in life.”

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Bonnie Roche-Blair

Ms. Roche-Blair started at Venice in July of 2000, and is a counselor for the World Language Magnet.

“In my spare time, I hope to do some traveling and spend a little bit more time with my 91-year-old mother. I want to work on my house and read and exercise and eat better. Things like that. Take care of myself.

“Hopefully, the students that are here know enough about their graduation requirements and what they need to do in order to graduate. If you make a mistake or if you fall down, you know, that’s not what’s important. It happens to everybody, we all mistakes. You don’t give up. You keep going. And that’s what’s most important.

Ms. Roche-Blair said that students should focus on obtaining their high school diplomas regardless of the amount of time it takes.

“Nowadays everybody needs to have a high school diploma,” she said. “You’ve got to look at the long run. You’ve got to look at the long-term effect. I always like to say to students,’No one plans to fail, but a lot of people fail to plan.’ Things just don’t come true if you don’t plan.

“Hopefully I will have students that will have had a good experience with me and from that, will learn to trust to ask for advice and will trust to come to their new counselor or the college counselor, you know, because you don’t go it alone. There’s a lot of people around here that can help and we just have to get students to the point that they’re comfortable asking.

“It’s going to be kind of weird come August or September because, you know, for more than 50 years, school was part of my life. It’s going to be a big transition for me.

Mireya Curiel

Ms. Caroline Gill

Ms. Gill has worked seven years at Venice High School, but has worked over 40 years. She has been a librarian for a long time and a teacher.

“After I retire, I have a lot of volunteer activities that I’ll keep doing. I volunteer at the Downtown Los Angeles Public Library in the children’s literature department, and I’m president of the Friends group. I can volunteer at other places, too. I sing in the choir, so that’s volunteering.

“I have family here, so I can do things with my family too.

“I think we’ve done a really good job this year with keeping our collection up to date. The students helped me read the reviews and getting books with starred reviews and a variety that supports a well-rounded collection.

“I think my experience here at Venice has been good. I felt a lot of support from the teachers.

“I think using databases and using the library, those lessons, need to start earlier in the middle school years, but they’re not funding middle school libraries on the Westside. We keep trying to update kids so that they are adept at using the library and their resources.

“Venice is a good community. Very supportive. It’s very accepting. I really like the atmosphere here.

“Of course I’m going to miss Venice because it’s taken up so many hours of my day.

“I thank Venice for all the support it’s given me, the different teachers and the administration. It’s a very cohesive staff. I felt like I’ve been included, like the library is a part of the whole scheme at the school.

Mireya Curiel

Mr. Frederick Moore

Mr. Moore is an English teacher and has been working at Venice since 2004. This will be the end of his 14th year at Venice.

“I’ve always been a musician. I’m going to have a lot more time for that once I retire. There are a couple of causes I’m interested in. In Venice, the homelessness is an issue and we need to provide homes to people. And of course I’m an animal person, so I might be involved in something related to that.

“I hope the students have a greater appreciation of literature. I certainly hope my 9th grade students have become better writers, as well as my 12th graders.I hope students are more enthusiastic about reading and academics. If you make school fun, even a course you don’t love, you’ll do a lot better.

“I will miss Venice. I just like the students. I laugh every day. Somebody says something or does something. I find it hilarious.

“I’ve always found it to be a really good school. The faculty, most of the time, gets along pretty well. Generally speaking, the students have been really respectful and very easy to work with.

“Being here has been a very meaningful part of my career. I feel I’ve been able to actually get somewhere with the students.

“I hope students have enjoyed themselves as they’ve learned something. I hope they’ve picked up on the idea that learning can be fun.”