Cardinal Times welcomes Lincoln’s new staff members
September 9, 2020
The Cardinal Times interviewed new Lincoln staff members about their backgrounds, jobs and lives outside of work. See their responses below. Interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Giovanna Bocanegra – Social Work
What will you be doing at Lincoln and how will you interact with the students?
I will be one of Lincoln’s school social workers, working alongside Judy Herzberg. My main goal is to support the social-emotional and mental health needs of students so that they can access their education. For some students, this will mean providing direct mental health support, and for others it might be connecting them with community resources to eliminate barriers (food, housing, transportation, etc.). While we’re distance learning I will be able to connect with students and families virtually during my drop-in “office” hours!
What made you want to become a social worker?
I had a mentor growing up who was a social worker, and she introduced me to the profession. I knew going into college that this is what I wanted to do!
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?
I really enjoy trying new recipes (it always feels like an experiment), taking my dog to the dog park, thrift store shopping and reading a good novel. Before the pandemic, I also loved traveling. I’ve visited countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Where have you previously taught?
I’ve previously been a school social worker in Denver, Colo. and Minneapolis, Minn. I attended graduate school in Denver, and my family lives in Minnesota.
What are some of your favorite things about Portland? Do you have any favorite places you have explored?
I love how unique Portland is. So far, I have enjoyed visiting the Rose Garden, going to waterfalls, hiking in Forest Park, walking to Salt & Straw and shopping at the Portland Farmers Market. In the past, I went to the Japanese Garden and that was also beautiful. I am nervous about my first rainy winter here!
You were part of the Peace Corps. What was that experience like? How has it shaped your life and work?
I joined the Peace Corps right after college and taught English in Indonesia for two years. The Peace Corps was great. It’s such a great way to be immersed in a different culture and learn a new way of life. I got the opportunity to see what schools in Indonesia are like, to try new foods and learn a language. It really showed me that, in the end, we are more alike than we are different. It made me even more appreciative of cultural diversity.
How do you feel about school being online and coming as a new staff member in the same year?
I’m nervous! I’d much rather be in-person. However, I understand why we’re virtual right now. I definitely do not take being together in a school building for granted anymore.
How will you incorporate your passion for the mental health of students into your job?
I’m open to what students would like to see. I hear Lincoln has a mental health club, and I think that sounds interesting. It would be great to be involved in bringing awareness to mental health issues that impact students.
How do you feel about Lincoln so far?
The Lincoln community has been very warm and welcoming so far. I get the sense that everyone’s voice is valued, and that is really important to me.
Is there anything else you would like to say to Lincoln students?
Please don’t be shy to reach out, even if it’s just to say hello or to ask about something in this profile! My email is [email protected].
Mariam Higgins – Administration
Where are you from?
I was born and raised outside of Cleveland, Ohio, but I moved to Oregon almost 30 years ago.
What are the most important things that you want students to know about you?
I want students to know that I have a sense of humor and that I am multiracial. I’m Pakistani, African American and white. I was born and raised a Muslim. Those are all things that I don’t think people would notice from just looking at me, but those are really important to who I am.
Where have you studied?
Where I haven’t studied might be a better question. I transferred twice during my undergraduate years, and I’ve done graduate work at at least three different schools. I went to the Cleveland Institute of Art and my major was medical illustration. I also went to Case Western Reserve’s medical school. It was a joint program. So my undergraduate degree is actually from a medical school.
What did you do before coming to Lincoln?
For 15 years, I was a medical illustrator. When my kids started kindergarten, I started becoming more and more interested in their education, so I went back to school and got a graduate degree in teaching. I’ve taught for 15 years, mostly at Catlin Gabel. Then, I became an instructional coach for Portland Public Schools, North Clackamas Schools and the Hillsboro School District. I worked in 15 different schools coaching teachers on how to integrate art into their teaching.
Why did you transition from being a medical illustrator to working in education?
I would say the transition from being a professional artist to a teacher was kind of surprising. I found it was a new passion. During all the years I had done medical illustration, I found myself thinking about kids and teaching all the time instead of drawing broken bones (which I’m pretty good at, too). But it was more rewarding to be a teacher. I also teach at Lewis and Clark’s Graduate School of Education. So, with both of these roles as an admin and as a professor, I really like how I just get to positively impact and be a part of more people’s lives.
What are you looking forward to at Lincoln?
Well, this is kind of a surprise to me. I just love the spirit of it. Dressing up in red and black every day and saying “Goooo Cards!” And, I know this sounds corny, but I’m really excited to be a part of the flock.
Why did you want to work at Lincoln?
Honestly, it was the last question of my job interview that really made me want this job. They asked, “What else? Anything we should know about you?” I said, “I am passionate about integrating subjects. I’m both an artist and a scientist, and I like to see how, for example, math and art pair together, or business and dance or architecture and drama.” I remember Ms. Chapman saying, “We’re building a new high school and we’re looking for ways for our students to engage in the architecture, the design and the building of it.” And I just leaned forward and I was like, “Now I really want this job.”
What are the most important things you want to bring to Lincoln?
I’m a pretty good listener and I’m creative, so rather than say “This is what I want to do,” I want to hear what students want to do and what teachers want to do. I also really love to problem solve and figure out a way to make that happen.
What are you really passionate about?
I’ve been an activist since I was 18 in a variety of different ways, including the somewhat embarrassing “kayactivist” movement (“floating protests” all over the world to block or slow down oil drilling and advance environmental protections). I kayak a lot, and I’ve been on the water before as a protester in my kayak.
What are your interests and hobbies?
I just like being outside and with friends. I hike every Sunday with a group of friends. I sea kayak. I bicycle, I ski and play pickleball. I just like to play outside.
How have you been involved in the planning of virtual learning?
I’m always looking for ways to make it easier and to find the silver linings of it. How can we make this so it’s more inclusive? How can we help students connect with one another and make it easier?
It’s also important to recognize that we just set something up that is all online and that we can use this same thing in the future if we need to. We won’t have to rebuild the whole thing. We’ll just adapt it. I know some other teachers who were getting really creative with it, like teaching with GoPro cameras. And they’re just like, “Wow, this is really cool because people can watch it over and over again instead of just one time.” So, yes, I am involved. I want to make sure that we can think about different ways to keep people engaged and connected.
What are you the most excited about at Lincoln? What has stood out to you so far?
I think just the optimistic attitude of the teachers and the admin. Instead of saying, “Look, no, we can’t do that,” everyone asks, “How do I do that?” Or says, “Let me try that,” or “I’m going to try this way,” or “Let’s find this work around” or “Let’s reach out.” So I think the energy level is just super positive because everybody’s going through hard times. It’s really surprising that everyone is so eager and positive to make this work for students.I
Sarah Bestor – Math and AVID
What subjects do you teach and why?
This year I am teaching Advanced Algebra 3/4 Analysis, Advanced Algebra 3/4 Workshop, Geometry and AVID 9. Math can be one of the biggest roadblocks for students on their path to complete high school, My goal as a math teacher is to make math easier to manage. I also hope that my students become better problem solvers and become ready to question numbers that they see in the world.
How long have you been teaching?
I am starting my second year as a teacher. Last year, I taught at St. Helens High School, in St. Helens, Ore., and I student-taught here at Lincoln High School two years ago, where I was also the assistant coach for the girls basketball team.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
Since I was quite young I wanted to be a teacher; there were not really other jobs that I wanted to have. Other than a pizza delivery person (I still want to do that one day), that’s the dream.
Where did you study?
Oregon State – Go Beavs!
Why did you choose to come to Lincoln?
I sort of fell into student-teaching at Lincoln, and over the course of that year, I fell in love with the students and the school. I knew I would want to one day come back, I just did not know when that opportunity would present itself. One of my favorite things about Lincoln is the passion and drive that the students have to create change in their community and globally. The students here inspire me to be better each day.
What is your favorite part about teaching?
The best part of teaching is the ability to connect with students and see them succeed. Working with youth has always been a passion of mine and being able to work with students each day is the best thing in the world. I am most looking forward to meeting my AVID 9 cohort and speaking with and getting to see how my students from two years ago have grown.
What do you hope to get out of this year, considering the circumstances?
I honestly have a lot of hopes for this year. I think it is an opportunity for us all to grow in a technology-centered world. I hope to bond with my students, and to be able to make my mark as a teacher, even if I am unable to be in the building. I also hope that being home can help me successfully not kill my plants.
What do you like to do outside of teaching?
Some of my favorite ways to spend my time include skateboarding and longboarding, playing music (I used to be in a band), making Spotify playlists for my friends and camping on the beach. There are not many instances where I do not have my headphones in, listening to a podcast or music. I also have gotten incredibly skilled at staring out the window longingly during the quarantine.
What is your favorite thing about Portland?
There are so many good parts of Portland! A few top things for me lately have been watching the city lights at Rocky Butte, all the local businesses there are to support and the good food.
Chau Phan Mende – Science
What inspired you to become a teacher?
There have been so many moments that inspired me to teach throughout my life, but one truth came to light this past year in my preservice teaching program. I realized how much I loved being a student, immersing myself in a learning environment and having the opportunity to learn new things. Learning, for me, is such a strong motivator, and it has led me over these years to take action, become an agent of change and advocate for environmental awareness.
The one thing that brings me so much joy and purpose is sharing experiences with people and connecting with them through learning together.
I have been inspired by so many past and present teachers, and feel I am among giants. I have such high respect for them. So many of my teachers have believed in me and loved me for the person that I am and the person I am still becoming.
Where did your passion for science and STEM come from?
I can always remember being curious about nature and trying to figure out how things worked, how things were connected and how to create from scratch. I have always loved working with my hands.
When I studied chemistry in college, I chose it as a major because it had the most overlap with the other sciences. Even though STEM was not a focus in my studies, I have applied STEM to so many applications post-college and teaching with a STEM lens.
In the past, my passion for science was about knowing, but now the motivation comes from wanting to understand deeply about the nature of things and wondering about the history of science. As natural science invites us to think about and understand laws that can be predicted, I also hold to the social sciences that makes us think about human nature and social/environmental/global issues that cannot be easily explained or predicted.
Why did you choose to teach at Lincoln?
I grew up in Portland and feel so lucky that my family chose to immigrate here instead of somewhere else. Portland is home.
What are you most looking forward to at Lincoln?
In the near future, I look forward to being in a physical classroom again, meeting and talking with students and connecting with people with facial smiles, visual cues and hearing voices “live.”
In the meantime, I will settle for meeting students in the second best place: virtual classrooms and connecting with our imaginations. We will have to rethink and reimagine our learning spaces and believe we can still have optimal learning opportunities for every student.
I look forward to hearing student discussions related to: patterns in physics, science phenomena, current scientific discoveries, curious scientists, past and present and student voices and choice projects.
Frank Talerico – Special Education and Study Skills
At Lincoln, what will be your primary role?
My primary roles are Special Education Case Manager and Study Skills (Learning Center) Teacher. I assist my students with their goals, accommodations, modifications, etc., and ensure that their academic and social-emotional needs are met. I also check in regularly with the families of my students. Lastly, I have the chance to check in with most of the general education teachers at Lincoln to help them with anything Special Education-related.
Before coming to Lincoln, what was your job and what did you do at that job?
Before Lincoln, I was at Roosevelt High School, taking on the same role(s) that I have now at Lincoln. Before Roosevelt, I was a teacher at Alliance Charter Academy in Oregon City. I taught in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. as a general education/Special Education teacher (Social Studies, English, Math, and Special Education), and I also taught in Cleveland, Ohio for a short period of time.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Florida Atlantic University for my Bachelor’s Degree and earned my Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri (Master of Education in Learning, Teaching and Curriculum with an Emphasis in Social Studies Education).
What are some things you are excited about at Lincoln?
I am really excited to start at Lincoln! I have lived in the downtown area for eight years, and I have always wanted to teach here. My daughter, Aubrie, is a 10th grader, and I am glad I will be teaching at the school she attends. I have heard many, many great things about Lincoln, and I am ready to get started with the new school year. I am also looking into starting a chapter of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-driven organization which functions like a mock congress. I will most likely start the Lincoln JSA chapter when we return to school on campus. There are many great opportunities with this organization, including a possible yearly trip to Washington, D.C. for a national convention!
What led you to work in the Special Education field?
There was no specific moment or reason that led me to a career as a Special Education teacher. I have always been an advocate for underserved and underrepresented people throughout my life, and I believe my career as a Special Education teacher gives me the chance to support students and families who need help maneuvering through their academic process. Additionally, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 12 years old, and this change in my life had a huge impact on my overall adolescence, both positively and negatively. As a result, I did not always have the greatest experiences throughout my own middle and high school years. My decision to become a Special Education educator was influenced by wanting to help students who have struggles and experiences similar to my own. More than anything, I want to create a positive and meaningful educational experience for all my students, especially those who may struggle with finding success in school.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I love having the chance to build meaningful relationships with my students, and help them to have the best possible academic experience possible. Teachers play many, many different roles in their students’ lives, and I love that I have the opportunity to be a positive part of this.
What are some things you do in your free time?
I am really close with my wife and daughters, and we get along really well, so spending time with them is always my number one priority. I also love to cook (I am pretty good!), read and exercise. I used to play golf all the time when I was in Florida, but I have not had the chance to get out there and play as much since moving to Portland.
What are some things you’ve done during the quarantine?
I wanted to try and meet virtually with all of the students (and their families) who I case manage before starting the new school year. I devoted a great deal of time doing this, and I was able to meet some amazing people in the process. I also wanted to start establishing relationships with my students, since I will be working closely with them (and their families) over the coming years. I did do a great deal of cooking/baking, exercising, walking around downtown and spending time with my family, too.