South Pas Schools Open with 14 New Teachers

The first day of school was a big day for students, parents and administrators as the district also welcomed 14 new teachers to the educational fold. Photos by Mario Boucher

Parents dropping off children signaled the start of another school year at South Pasadena Unified’s five schools with an enrollment of about 4,800 students.  Students were starting new classes   as they began their first day of school.

The district is welcoming 14 new teachers and one new assistant principal this fall.

Four teachers will split their official duties between different schools and they are: Arpi Tamzarian, resource specialist at Arroyo Vista and Marengo elementary schools; Kimberly Woo, counselor at Arroyo Vista Elementary and the Middle School; Ji Choo, math teacher at the Middle and High School; and Chad Bryant, technology integration coach at the three elementary schools and at SPHS.

Marengo welcomes teachers Laura Akcasu, a speech and language pathologist, and Melody Darnell, who will be teaching the fifth grade. Monterey Hills Elementary School adds Jack Hall, transitional kindergarten teacher; Emma Martin, instructor; and Amanda Zia, who takes on the fourth grade.

Meanwhile, the biggest influx of new teachers is at the SPMS, which welcomes a new assistant principal, Carlos Kassam-Clay as well as science teacher Emily Meinke and Mindy Pomper-Johnson, career technical education for broadcast journalism; Jennifer Sabo; resource specialist and Sarah Martin, band. There’s only one addition at the High School, Andre Zumaeta, career technical education of sports medicine instructor.

So Pas High School Principal Janet Anderson helps students navigate the first school day. Photos by Henk Friezer

Kimberly Woo worked as a counselor for the district last year, giving her a chance to meet other teachers and interact with students.

“I was lucky to be here last year, filling in for a maternity leave, so I’m not quite as freaked out,” she said.

She said she’s familiar with South Pasadena because she was raised and attended school in So Pas. Her two children currently attend Monterey Hills.

“I’m very excited to be part of the district, in my hometown,” she said. “There is a lot of positiveness with what the district has to offer.”

Pomper-Johnson said she has been dreaming of teaching in South Pasadena for a long time. “When I finished my credential, I was a substitute here, and I fell in love with the students and staff in the district,” she said.

“By the end of the class, I hope my students will walk away with a love of broadcast journalism, understanding the power and creativity behind them,” she said.

Students find their classes and report for the first day.

Meinke said she chose South Pasadena and she sees herself teaching here for a long time. “South Pasadena supports and inspires its teachers and it felt like a great fit,” she said.

Teachers are encouraged to explore new methods and techniques and galvanize their students to learn something new and hard, said Meinke.

“I will be teaching earth and space science to sixth graders, and over the year, I will be teaching them about earth systems,” she said. “By the end of the year, the students will be explorers and engineers!”