Irvington Alumni Teachers: Mr. Stilwell


Arvin Tafreshi

Mr. Stilwell teaches Yearbook and History.

I attended Irvington from 1996 to 2000. A lot of my focus was on the social aspect of Irvington. Outside of the school, I fenced, and I did that since junior high and through high school. I really enjoyed that. I actually started the fencing club here in 97. Unfortunately, it’s been inactive the last couple years. But it was very neat. When I came back to Irvington, I was able to be the advisor for the club I had founded. 

There was stuff like D&D clubs. We had chess clubs. A lot of my friends were into electronics and metal and wood shops, and they created these beautiful works of art, absolutely stunning physical artifacts. 

We also had a lot of vocational classes. We had more diversity within the history department. I remember there were classes like geography. Language studies had other languages, including German. 

Irvington’s certainly become more academic and STEM focused. The level of pressure that students put themselves under is something in my time that we would have attributed to Mission. Not that Irvington wasn’t academic, but there was a lot more variety in what we did. I feel we’ve gotten a little razor-focused on a narrow field, and we’ve likely lost something because of that.

Every teenager, including myself, we’re very focused on academics now. But when you get older, you get a little nostalgic and you start to value those memories a lot more. A lot of students are like, ‘Man, as soon as I can, get out of Irvington.’ I was probably like that myself when I graduated. But as more time passed, I missed the home it was. 

The reason why I’m here is you guys. I feel 19 a lot of times because I thrive off your guys’ optimism, your energy, your sense of humors, even some of your worries and being, in some cases, able to help you navigate through. I get to be a little piece of all of my students’ futures. 

I kind of fell into teaching. During the 2008 financial crisis, there weren’t a lot of jobs available. I started substitute teaching and denied it the whole time, saying, ‘I’m going to be a police officer.’ After about five years, I finally figured out that teaching is what I’m really loving. I started teaching in Stockton in 2007 and then as a long term sub. When I decided, I said, ‘Okay, we’re coming back home.’ 

I picked up a long term assignment here in 2012, when I took over the yearbook. Then I did my student teaching here as part of my teaching credential. Little did I know my student teaching was essentially a six month long job interview. 

Thankfully, the lady I was subbing for decided not come back to Irvington. There was a spot for me, and I got hired and everything clicked. I think it was the universe telling me that this is where I need to be.