Irvington alumni return as teachers

By Kelsey Ichikawa | Features Editor

This year, Irvington’s staff has many new faces, but some of those faces aren’t so unfamiliar.  Biology teacher Ariela Koehler, calculus teacher Gary Ip, and English teacher Catherine Dinh are all new additions to the staff who previously attended Irvington as students.

“It’s a wonderful chance to be able to work at the high school which I attended itself,” said Ms. Koehler, a member of Irvington’s graduating class of 2009. “I think that Irvington has a very unique culture with the benchmark projects and rallies and all the different community-building activities that it does.”

Ms. Dinh, also a member of Irvington’s graduating class of 2009, mentioned the culture as a motivation for returning to her alma mater as well.

“After I got my credential, I decided to apply to many high schools,” she said.  “I accepted Irvington’s offer because it was a familiar place and I knew, as a student, that the culture was one I would be comfortable in.”

Mr. Ip, part of Irvington’s graduating class of 2007, felt that his alumnus background allowed him to be a better teacher.

“I feel that Irvington is a school where I can use my skills as a teacher to their fullest extent,” he said.  “I’ve done the Change Project, WIP, and QUEST. I took many of the same classes my students are taking now. I believe that having these shared experiences with my students allows me to teach several times more effectively.”

While Ms. Dinh agreed that her previous experience with Irvington’s academic traditions made her job easier, she also commented on some differences she’s noticed. “The school has changed in many ways since I was last here,” she said, “including new staff, new technology, and teenagers who face more pressure and competition than I did at their age.”

As former Irvington students, these new staff members have the chance to work with colleagues whom they previously had as teachers.  “It’s a mix of awkward and fun,” said Mr. Ip.  “I get to see the ‘non-teacher’ side of them which is sometimes vastly different from how I remember them when they were teaching in the classroom.”

Ms. Dinh and Ms. Koehler both mentioned the difficulty in addressing their former teachers.  “It was awkward calling them by their first names.  I still can’t do it for most of them,” Ms. Dinh commented.

Being on the opposite side of the classroom relationship also gives the alumni a new perspective on teachers.  “I think what students don’t realize is one, how well Irvington teachers know each other as co-workers, how they’re friends,” said Ms. Koehler, “and two, that teachers want you to do as well on your work and assignments as you do yourself, even if teachers sound like they’re being harsh or overly persistent.”

Algebra 2/Trig teacher Ms. Lin taught Mr. Ip, Ms. Koehler, and Ms. Dinh when they were high school students. “It’s a gratifying feeling to know that they appreciated teachers enough to become ones themselves,” she said.


Caption: From left to right: Ms. Koehler, Ms. Dinh, and Mr. Ip.

Koehler picDinh picIp pic