Max Yera staff writer
The math department will lose a familiar face next fall as geometry and algebra teacher Leonard Mitchell will retire after 41 years of teaching, with the final 33 of those years at Beverly.
“It was a very difficult decision for me, probably the hardest one I ever had to make,” Mitchell said.
Though his time in the math department will come to an end, Mitchell does not envision a life completely absent of work.
“I’m not done working,” Mitchell said. “I plan to do some tutoring or possibly working [part time] at a school that does not pay to the state retirement system.”
Upon Mitchell’s retirement, the high school may also be losing a prolific character in the softball program, as it remains in question whether he will maintain his position as assistant coach next season.
“Mr. Mitchell has been a great coach and mentor throughout my time on the softball team,” senior Erica Nabat said. “Without him, the softball program wouldn’t be where it is today.”
Mitchell is a staff member who both loves and is loved by his students. However, the students aren’t the only people Mitchell is going to miss.
“And of course I’m going to miss my colleagues,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got some great math colleagues and coaching colleagues, and teachers from the other subjects that I’ve come to know and become friends with, and that’s made it really, really enjoyable.”
Perhaps above all else, Mitchell will miss the interaction with both students in the classroom and athletes on the softball field.
“When I decided in my sophomore year of college to get into teaching and coaching, because I’ve always loved sports and I’ve always loved math, my dad said ‘you’re not going to get rich.’ And monetarily maybe not, but you know, I’ve become rich from the students’ and athletes’ appreciation and hard work, so I’m going to miss that interaction,” Mitchell explained.
Though it will be difficult to leave this life behind, Mitchell admits that he has never been more content with his decision.
“I still have some game. You know there’s an old country song that says ‘I’m not as good as I was once, I’m not as good as I ever was’. And you know I’ve slowed down a little bit but as I still tell the kids, I still have some game left. I still enjoy the math. I still love coming to work. And that hasn’t diminished that much over the years,” Mitchell said. “It’s a combination of things. You know it’s time. I’m getting a little older. I feel good about it now. It’s very difficult but right now I’m positive that I’ve made the right decision.”
Mark Mead is leaving his post as an ASB advisor, an English teacher, a former wrestling coach and the confidante of many students to go to a new job as a vice principal at Burbank High School.
Although he spent the majority of his student-interaction time in the classroom, Mead still feels that wrestling played an extremely large part in his time and his experiences here.
“If you really push me to say, my years as a wrestling coach meant a lot to me. I had a special bond with those athletes and the farther away I am from it, the more I look back with wonder at what we accomplished. It was a very formative period in my life,” Mead said.
To Mead, his departure is sad not just because he is leaving the school behind, but also because of the experience that he was able to gain and the new challenges he was able to face.
“Leaving Beverly is really bittersweet because I’ve put a lot of myself into this school. I’ve chosen to get out of my comfort zone and take on some leadership roles like in ASB or some types of administrative roles while i was getting my masters,” Mead remarked.
Mead sees ASB as the area that he benefitted most. He feels that his absence doesn’t hinder the progress that ASB has been making because they are so well prepared.
“The place I hope to see it the most is in ASB. We spent three years trying to design a vision for this school that we believe in and I feel like I’m leaving ASB in good hands. I literally feel like the kids can teach the teacher just as well as the other way around.”
After her welcome in 2014, House A assistant principal Renee Cobb will be graduating with the class of 2016 as she departs for her future plans.
While she was not able to share what is next to come, Cobb said that her experience at this school has made a great impact.
“‘The Beverly Way’ has greatly influenced my career change at this time, and I wish the student, faculty and staff here the best the world has to offer,” she said.
Cobb’s favorite aspects of Beverly will always be the students, as she fondly shared memories with them.
“I have enjoyed every minute spent with the students regardless of the purpose for their visit to House A, or in my office, the cafe or anywhere on campus. One of the highlights of my experience at Beverly Hills High was the Carnegie Hall performance in New York with the Madrigals singers, under the leadership of Ms. Kikkawa. It was indeed the trip of a lifetime,” Cobb said. “In addition, my experience participating with the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ project was life changing for me as well as the students.”
Many students will be sad to see her leave, as she has helped them navigate high school.
“Though I have never really met her, from what I know, and from what she does, I can tell she is a devoted administrator and friend. I know that as the house A principal, she does everything she can to help all her students,” sophomore Samantha Boudaie said.
Additionally, some students have unique, personal memories of Cobb that they will cherish when she departs.
“In my freshman year, my brother and I were walking together in the halls to get to our first classes, right next to house A. Mrs. Cobb was standing right next to us. I wasn’t looking my best that day, but anyways, she said to me, ‘Good morning, beautiful.’ I kind of just laughed in my head and walked off because it seemed so funny and spontaneous at the time,” sophomore Lital Peykar said.
Working at Beverly has been a reciprocal learning experience for her: she learns from those she teaches and mentors.
One of the major tenets working at Beverly has taught Cobb is best put in her own words: “Always look on the bright side of life!”
Due to her and husband’s recent move to Santa Barbara, a long-held goal of theirs, District Arts Coordinator and graphic design teacher Debra Joseph decided that her decision to return next year was a better fit.
“This has been a transition year for me. It was a very hard decision, but I’ve relocated to another city and plan to continue my work in the arts and/or incorporate education in the Santa Barbara area,” Joseph said.
This May will conclude her 14th year in the district, encompassing 14 years teaching and six years as the District Arts coordinator. However, her time here was neither the beginning nor the end of her love for education and the arts.
Joseph feels very blessed to have been a part of the Norman Nation.
“Beverly Unified has given me a great deal– wonderful friends and colleagues, great students to inspire, many of whom have gone on to wonderful schools and are pursuing their dreams in the arts, new media, product design and marketing,” Joseph said.
In addition to the relationships she has built, Joseph is grateful for the various opportunities she was given.
“Beverly Unified has also given me the opportunity, as the District Arts Coordinator, to follow my passions in arts, advocacy and pedagogical trends. While here, I’ve honed my grant writing, strategic plan writing, teacher development and instructional design skills,” she said.
She has also left a mark on her students through educating and mentoring them.
“I learned how to make something so professional from nothing, such as a blank page or a basic photo of a tree, and make it something unique and personal,” sophomore Eli Lawrence, a student in her graphic design class, said. “[Ms. Joseph] helps people understand what looks to be really complicated. She inspires people to be creative and look at what they are able to do rather than what they see.”
While Joseph may be leaving, she emphasized that technology never will.
“Technology is ever-changing and is simply a set of tools to manifest our ideas and produce and publish them in some shape, way or form. Ideas are what it’s all about,” Joseph said. “The tools we use will come and go. That is why we will all be lifelong learners. That is certainly what I am.”
Although House B Counselor Stacey Carr’s fun-filled and inspiring time on campus is ending, she still has much to look forward to in her exciting and promising future.
Due to her passion for working with students, this will not be the end of Carr’s counseling career.
“I love seeing students following their dreams and their interests and formulating their next steps after Beverly,” Carr said. “I live in Topanga Canyon, so I’m looking for a school counseling position near there…[I look forward to] working with students again in the future. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
The end of Carr’s time counseling in House B opens a window of opportunity for her to enjoy and explore the pleasures of her home and of nature in Topanga Canyon.
“I have a horse, and I plan to do a lot of horseback riding and trail riding and jumping, and swimming in the ocean and enjoying nature up at my house,” Carr said.
Though Carr looks forward to her future, her departure is bittersweet as she leaves behind her coworkers and students.
“I’ll miss the fun that we have in House B; I’ll miss singing with Mrs. Bennett, rocking out to the Golden Oldies and The Monkeys. I’ll miss Ms. Buckley’s decorations, for sure, and the luncheons that we have and all the cupcakes in House A and just the students,” Carr said. “I’ll miss the students. I wish everyone the best. I’ll miss them.”
However, Carr is excited to build new memories at a new school and in life.
“I’m looking forward to finding another school where it feels like family, like it did here for me and just enjoying every day that I have in my life and filling it with beautiful things and adventures and friends.”
El Rodeo Class of 1970. Beverly Class of 1974. Michele Mendelsohn began her education career as a student in the Beverly Hills Unified School District, and has remained part of Beverly Hills education her whole life.
Mendelsohn, a special education teacher, ninth and tenth grade English teacher and student case carrier, has been teaching in the district for 37 years, beginning at El Rodeo and ending after an eight-year stretch at Beverly. Mendelsohn was also an Apple Award recipient this year.
“My biggest responsibility here at Beverly is that I’m a carrier for 23 kids. I help them choose their schedule, I meet with them and their counselors and parents, and we hold yearly IEPS (individual education plans) for students,” Mendelsohn said.
Mendelsohn remembers much from her time as a student at Beverly, from celebrations after football and basketball games at House of Pies, to the giant sweet rolls from the nutrition cart. Her favorite memories, though, remain her inspiration from the Art Department, to the lasting relationships she created.
“[My favorite memory from Beverly was] my teachers. I loved my teachers. I loved the English Department, the History Department and, especially, the Art Department. I was very inspired in the Art Department. We had amazing art teachers and I loved ceramics. I also had great friends. I’m still friends with a lot of people from high school. I lived near Roxbury Park so I walked everywhere and hung out with people all the time,” she said.
One valuable lesson Mendelsohn has learned from her experience as a teacher is the power of patience, even for those who seem like they don’t want or need it.
“Because of the nature of my job, I’ve learned to be extremely patient and passionate. I also know that I need to nurture kids, because no matter what age kids are, they sometimes carry troubles with them, and it’s important for them to know that not every day is going to be great,” Mendelsohn said. “It’s good to be understanding and sympathetic, too. In my years, I’ve had so many students lose a sibling or lose a parent or have somebody ill in their family and sometimes they just need someone to talk to.”
Senior Adriana Santiago has been one of Mendelsohn’s students for four years. Santiago has grown close to Mendelsohn, and has developed a special relationship with Mendelsohn.
“I can’t imagine a time without Ms. Mendelsohn. Since I was a freshman I remember coming into her room and being extremely confused, and she has become like a mother figure to me,” Santiago said. “Ms. Mendelsohn isn’t an ordinary professor or teacher, she is another mother figure in my life and she has always influenced my life positively, always helping me when I’m confused, always steering me in the right direction and I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Mendelsohn has had relationships with many students over the past 37 years of teaching. Mendelsohn’s connection to Beverly runs deep, from her own experience as a student to new insights as a teacher, but she will always remember Beverly.
“I absolutely learned something new every single day. I learn from the kids, I love the high school kids, they’re terrific,” Mendelsohn said. “I will continue to keep up with what’s going on at Beverly because I bleed Beverly. I will always remember what a great experience I had.”
Norman athletics will see yet another new face as the head of the department next fall due to the departure of current athletic director Wanda Szeremeta at the conclusion of her first year.
Szeremeta has expressed her passion for teaching as her primary motive for departing from the athletic department position, a position largely revolved around administrative work.
“I miss teaching. I miss being around the student athletes more than two or three hours a day,” Szeremeta said. “There was something missing, you know, and I thought it would be in my best interest to pursue a position where I could do both: be an athletic director and still teach students during the day because the bottom line is I’m a teacher.”
However, though certain that she would like to further her teaching in physical education, Szeremeta is not positive where nor when it will continue.
“You know wherever my goddess leads me [is where I’ll teach]. I’m not certain, but I’m going to take my time in my decision. I have time so I may travel a little bit, get some rest and relaxation. It’s been a long year,” Szeremeta said.
Though admitting that in many ways she, in her words, “barely scraped the top of the iceberg,” Szeremeta is nevertheless proud of her accomplishments.
“I feel as though when I leave this position is turnkey. We are way ahead of the game for this upcoming fall,” Szeremeta said.
Szeremeta cites parent involvement as one reason for both her enjoyment at the position and many of her accomplishments.
“I’ve worked very closely with a lot of parents because we started a parent-athletic committee,” Szeremeta said. “You know your athletic programs are usually as strong as your parent involvement because parents are the engines behind each student and the parent involvement here at Beverly is wonderful.”
And as she now departs from such parents and the position that she has held for the past year, Szeremeta’s only advice for her successor, who will be current assistant principal Kevin Brown, is to work on behalf of benefitting the student-athletes.
“My advice is to really take a good look at what the needs of the student-athletes are and hold our student-athletes and our staff accountable,” Szeremeta said.
Although it is uncertain whether such advice shall be followed next fall, it does remain likely that Szeremeta’s contributions to the department itself shall be felt for years to come.
Margo Bender will be retiring after being the stalwart of sick children and their parents, as well as the excuser of absences and savior of grades.
She will be leaving her post in the attendance office and heading to a new private school founded by her son, doing whatever she can to help. However, she sees retirement as a step into relaxation and freedom.
“I’m excited to do whatever I want to do, to not have a plan,” Bender said. “I’m going to move to Orange County and be working part time…and I am going to ride my bike and swim.”
While Bender has been planning on leaving for a couple years, she just realized this year that it was time to pack up and move out. Although it is slightly bittersweet, she feels ready for it and prepared to go.
“It’s the perfect time, I’ve been planning on it for a couple years. I’ve always thought about it that it would be this year. It was a good time to retire,” she said. For Bender, the bittersweet emotional side is that she “will miss the kids. I love the energy. Anybody who works in this school knows, even though you get tired by May, you still stay young, energized and focused.”
From her time at Beverly, Bender has one main piece of advice for the students that she has watched stride in and out of her office.
“Get out and see other states when you graduate because I am so surprised that people really think Los Angeles is the world,” Bender said. “I only came up here 18 years ago from Orange County, so I want kids to get out of this and see how other people live.”
Even when she isn’t teaching, Susan Schneider can still hear her Señora voice in the back of her mind. And it’s understandable, because she has taught, and connected with, thousands of students during her 40 years at Beverly.
The longevity and memories associated with four decades as a Spanish teacher have been what Schneider describes as a “roller coaster.”
“On one level it’s surreal. It’s unbelieveable that I’ve been here the equivalent of ten cycles of high school,” Schneider said. “But certain years stand out in that I’ve gone through some serious personal health issues, loss of dear family members and my life has been almost like a roller coaster, even up to this year where I had my car accident in September.”
Yet throughout the hardships, Beverly has served as her rock.
“The school life has really kept me balanced, and, in spite of how difficult and traumatic some of these things have been, I always feel healthy here, and I always feel energized by the students,” Schneider said.
Fresh out of a UCLA bilingual teaching program that had brought her from Barcelona back to Los Angeles, Schneider took a job at Beverly Vista, where she taught Spanish as well as P.E. to students as young as 10-years-old. The next year, in the fall of 1977, she moved to the high school. Though barely older than her oldest students, she focused on maintaining an aura of authority, but the energy of the high school was what kept her going.
“The energy and the humor and the urgency of teenage life was really contagious to me,” Schneider said. “I think, in certain ways, I’ve never really grown up from high school.”
Throughout her years, Schneider has been grateful for many things, especially the lifelong friends she made while teaching.
“I’ve made my dearest friends in life from teachers here, and I feel like that is so lucky, it’s so rare that I meet people outside as an adult, and their best friends in life aren’t necessarily from their workplace. But my best and dearest friends, we go back to the 70s, and we’re still close and it all started here,” Schneider said.
One of those friends is fellow Spanish teacher José Peixoto, who has taught at Beverly since ASK.
“It’s sad, because we’ll be missing her, and she’s one of the most incredible people in my life. The department is going to be empty and it will be really sad,” Peixoto said. “ But on the other hand I’m happy that she will have a beautiful life and enjoy every second of it. But in my heart, I will be with her forever.”
Schneider, as a teacher, has learned to respect her students, and always be on their side. Senior Molly Hersh, who had Schneider as a freshman and a sophomore, enjoyed Schneider’s unique approach to teaching.
“I loved that she really focused on the creative aspect of learning,” Hersh said. “We had lots of projects and presentations that allowed students to have fun while also learning a lot. She is one of my favorite teachers that I’ve had over the years.”
After having, a very emotional Schneider explained her “identity crisis” and what she’ll experience as an ex-teacher.
“I know I won’t be teaching per say, but I hope to take those lessons about making a difference, humanity and compassion with me,” Schneider said. “These kids here really respond to a little compassion, and I’ve learned to be compassionate here.”
In the immediate future, she will work as a translator with a group of doctors who set up clinics in Spanish-speaking countries. She will also use her Spanish skills for community volunteer work, including helping Latino voters register to vote in the upcoming election.
“It’s nice to be going when I still have my energy,” Schneider said. “Though I don’t necessarily still have my youth, I still have my energy and my love of life.”