Cool new classes offered


Jake Gerbracht

Troy Bristol lectures his AP U.S. History class. Bristol will be one of two teachers starting a new class called Principles of Leadership and Community Organizing.

Cal High teachers are breaking the mold of what they teach by proposing new and fun classes for next school year.

Some teachers’ passions are reflected in these new courses, all of which fulfill students’ A-G  graduation requirements.    

Principles of Leadership and Community Organizing

Wanting to make Cal a more closely knit community, AP U.S. History teacher Troy Bristol and iQuest and American studies teacher Anja Wheeler have decided to co-teach a class they’re calling Principles of Leadership and Community Organizing for seniors.

To combat the disengagement new students may feel when starting school, Wheeler and Bristol have created a class where seniors will learn how to become mentors for freshmen. 

“It’s been brought to our attention on multiple occasions that we have some work to do as far as creating a positive campus climate here,” Bristol said. “I think there are definitely a lot of positive things that happen here, but there are also a lot of students who feel disconnected.” 

The senior to freshman ratio will be kept one to 10, allowing groups of 10 freshmen and a senior to meet as a small unit occasionally during tutorial and casually for after school hangouts or school events. 

Along with acting as mentors, seniors who take the class will also refine their expertise in leadership and community organizing, as well as teamwork. 

“No matter what job you want to do, those skills are incredibly useful,” Bristol said.  

Principles of Leadership and Community Organizing is expected to be filled by 70 seniors in two class periods. Bristol and Wheeler will be facilitating and mentoring the class, teaching students the ins and outs of mentorship and leadership.   

Academic Leadership

Inspired by a class offered at Dougherty Valley High School, Cal has decided to take up an official peer tutoring course to help students in other academic subjects succeed.

Janice Saiki, who teaches AP Calculus AB, Calculus, and Honors Precalculus, took  a n interest in the course after it was proposed by World History teacher Sarah Eddings. 

“I run a lot of tutoring programs such as math and NHS tutoring,” Saiki said. “It was something that I have always liked to do, so I volunteered to get involved.”

Academic Leadership will aim at having around 30 high-achieving juniors and seniors to help peer-tutor different subjects that students struggle with. 

These peer tutors will be able to go to different academic classes to help students out. Saiki reached out to staff on campus to get recommendations of potential students for her class and plans to hold an information session about the class soon for current sophomores and juniors. 

For students interested in Academic Leadership, Saiki is happy to discuss more about the course in person.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy English

Calling all book nerds and geeks, Cal now has the perfect English class to finish your last year of high school. 

Thanks to English teacher Devan Manning, Sci-Fi/Fantasy English will be offered as a senior English class next year. 

The class is currently offered at Monte Vista and Dougherty high schools.

Manning has decided to split the two genres into individual topics for each semester. Science fiction will be taught the first semester and fantasy will be taught the second semester. 

On top of the books she has picked out for the class, Manning also plans to give her Sci-Fi/Fantasy English students more liberty with book choice. She recommends her new class to those who feel like they haven’t enjoyed the books required to be read in school.

Manning will also be experimenting more with creative writing and gamification, which the use of elements in game design used in real life.

“The class will have levels, achievements badges, and experience points to give students a chance to show me what they’re learning in a different way,” Manning said.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy English will be provided as another fun way for seniors to finish their last English graduation requirement.

Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness

Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness is a new class that has never been taught before in the district. 

In fact, it might even be the first of its kind. 

English teacher Christina Teslich and philosophy teacher Tyler Gulyas will be co-teaching this unique course, which is offered exclusively to juniors and seniors. 

As a full year class, students will spend one semester with Teslich studying positive psychology and one semester with Gulyas learning about the philosophy of happiness.

Teslich came up with the idea to make this an official class at Cal. 

“I took a course at UC Berkeley called Positive Psychology and immediately thought of the students at Cal and how they could benefit from taking a class like it,” Teslich said. 

In the class, students will conduct a year-long research and community project about what it means to be happy from a cultural, philosophical, and scientific point of view. 

Students will attend field trips, participate in community projects, and have discussion groups to develop their own hypotheses of the meaning of happiness.

As it is a class that is the first of its kind, there was some work to get it approved as an official course on campus, but staff members have been very positive about this new class. 

“We have gotten so much support from admin and counseling, which is amazing,” Teslich said. 

Teslich says she has high hopes for the class and expects it to help make students on campus happier and mentally healthier. 

Centered around the inquiry of what truly makes a person happy, this class will be nothing short of a hands-on experience.