The Voice Spotlights New Irvington Administrators
October 14, 2018
Ms. Sarah Gialdini
Ever since she was eight years old, current Assistant Principal Sarah Gialdini knew she wanted to be a teacher. Although she initially wanted to teach math, her interests changed when her former English teacher at Newark Memorial High School gave her incredible amounts of support, allowing her to gain more confidence.
“She supported me the way I needed to learn instead of the way she wanted to teach,” said Ms. Gialdini. “She gave me a lot of support and I ended up feeling very confident in articulating myself and developing my thinking.”
Motivated by these early experiences and her desire to help students in the same way that her English teacher encouraged, Ms. Gialdini graduated from Sonoma State University and became an AP English teacher at American High, where she spent her career before moving to Irvington.
After four years of teaching at American, she realized her ambition to make a larger impact on the community. Because teaching and administrative leadership both involve building relationships, she switched to being an administrator.
“Teaching is valuable and the impact that teachers make is unique and special and it is very large because it goes beyond the students a teacher teaches in a year. But I wanted to broaden my scope and felt that this was a good opportunity to get to go that.”
Ms. Gialdini loves the welcoming nature of students and the vibrant student environment at Irvington. A huge fan of teenagers, Ms. Gialdini loves seeing all the activities Irvington students participate in and put together. She thinks that the school year has started very strong, and hopes to see continued growth throughout.
“I really enjoy seeing what you guys do. I enjoyed the first couple of rallies here. They were amazing and I’m just so excited for spirit week. I just love to see what teenagers can do,” she said.
Despite her passion for educating, her path to Irvington has had its fair share of challenges. One these includes learning the school and mentally placing teachers and their rooms together. Ms. Gialdini hopes to encourage students to pursue a balanced lifestyle and go beyond academic stress while also being well-rounded. She hopes to achieve this by supporting students to achieve their goals and creating ways to facilitate the process.
Ms. Gialini wants every student to live by the mottos “it takes all kinds [to achieve a goal]” and “spice of life.” These phrases have guided her in her journey to being an assistant principal, and throughout the rest of her life as well.
“All unanticipated experiences can create a new learning opportunity, and in order to succeed in the real world, it is imperative to embrace the unknown and grow from it,” said Ms. Gialdini.
Mr. John Honerkamp
After graduating from Stanford University and switching his career more than three times, Assistant Principal John Honerkamp finally found his calling as a high school teacher. His mother’s job as a special education teacher, along with the support and influence of his high school AP English teacher, opened his eyes to his passion for teaching and creating a positive impact on the students’ lives. Beginning his educating career in New York public schools, he a pursued project in which he was able to help start a vocational school. He then moved to Oakland, where he was the Dean at a middle school before joining the Fremont Unified School District in American High School, Washington High School, and the District Office.
Mr. Honerkamp’s time at Irvington has been extremely enjoyable, and he loves the friendly and vibrant environment on campus.
“What I love to do the most is to just walk throughout the school and listen to what’s going on,” said Mr. Honerkamp. “From classroom to classroom, it’s just mind-blowing. The environments are all different, the learning experiences are all different, content is all different.”
He reveals that he takes walks around Irvington to observe students and listen to fragments of conversations to experience all aspects of the school and assess various learning experiences. Through these observations, he notes that Irvington’s strength is in the students’ enthusiasm for their work. This, coupled with the engaging and welcoming nature of the student body, has reinforced Mr. Honerkamp’s love for working with students.
However, his transition has not been easy. One of the most difficult aspects of being an assistant principal for Mr. Honerkamp is learning how the school and its activities work.
“I think the biggest [challenge] is knowing where to go for things and how things work because the amount of knowledge or information that you have to have as an assistant principal at a high school is so incredibly broad,” he explained.
Although dealing with many of these situations can take a toll on him, Mr. Honerkamp enjoys making connections and forming relationships with everyone around him.
One of Mr. Honerkamp’s ongoing crusades is to create an inclusive environment for everyone on campus by increasing diversity and collaboration within classrooms. He hopes that he can find ways to ensure that everyone feels like they belong at Irvington and pursues a healthy lifestyle.
Above all, Mr. Honerkamp encourages students to maintain a good sense of humor throughout their lives.
“It’s important to care about things, but the minute you start taking yourself too seriously, you can get in trouble,” he elaborated. “It [failure] is a huge opportunity to prove who you really are. Take ownership, learn from it, and start moving forward.”