Many teachers say goodbye to Cal High


Nicholas Harvey

Douglas Mason talks to students dissecting a squid in the third period marine biology class. He is retiring after teaching at Cal High for 22 years.

Cal High will say goodbye to several teachers this year.

Among the list of those retiring or not returning include English teachers Kalise Ahern,  Danielle Caddy and Devan Manning, world history and philosophy teacher Tyler Gulyas, marine biology teacher Douglas Mason, Spanish teacher Nicole Resendiz, and physics teacher Deborah Sater. 

Of these, Mason, Resendiz, and Sater are retiring.

Additionally, Peggy Conklin and Gunilla Norton in the front office will be retiring, while bookkeeper technician Deborah Wong and Lori Ann Mitchell in the library will also be leaving, according to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education meeting agendas. Caddy and Resendiz confirmed they are leaving and were honored Wednesday at the final staff meting with the others.

Several other members of the school staff retired or resigned in the middle of the year.

Conklin and Norton, who work at the front attendance desk, said Cal’s students were one of their favorite parts of working here.

“Speaking for me, I have loved being up here,” said Conklin, who started working at Cal in 1999. “We have a lot of interaction with the students. We love the kids. The staff has been great.”

Norton, who was been at Cal for 12 years, said working with the same students for four years was a positive experience.

“Watching the students develop from the time they come in as freshmen and to see how they progressed to seniors is amazing,” Norton said.

Conklin added that students’ sense of humor was enjoyable, including hearing outlandish excuses they  used to sign out.

They both look forward to retirement.

“I’m actually moving to Reno, and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time in Tahoe, hiking, and kayaking,” Norton said.

Mason is retiring after 22 years of teaching at Cal. He said interacting with students was the best part of being a teacher.

“I’ve had students that are a little indifferent to the academics, but I can’t remember having a student who was really difficult, who had a bad attitude,” Mason said. “The students here are so easy to get along with”.

Mason said he plans on traveling and volunteering during his retirement.

His students, even those not initially interested in science, said he made the class engaging.

“He contextualizes his teaching in a way that makes students genuinely take an interest in the subject… not just an intellectual interest, but also an emotional investment,” senior Daniela Kuthy-Cervantes said.

Sater, who teaches Honors Physics, used a variety of unique labs to teach her classes.

“One project we were doing was sewing, and in another project we were building roller coasters,” sophomore Kaartik Tejwani said.

Sater’s classes were known for the physics boat races in the pool at the end of the year.

Manning, who is also curriculum leader for the English department, is leaving for several reasons, namely that her partner may need to relocate for work and that the pandemic has affected her mental health and teaching ability.

“I know that my own mental health is important, and I need a break,” Manning said. “There’s  a very good likelihood that I will come back once I’m rested.”

Manning also designed the curriculum at Cal for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy class, which she taught for the first time last year.

One of Manning’s students said she was willing to help students with their problems.

“For a lot of people, she’s going to be that important adult figure in their life,” said senior Eliana Steele, who was in Manning’s English 9 class and is the president of GSA, which Manning advises. “[If students] don’t want to go to a counselor about a problem that they’re having, she is the kind of person who will step in and help you out no matter what.”

Manning said she is working next year with a writing non-profit.

Caddy hopes to return to teaching in the future.

“It has been a joy working alongside so many young people who care about implementing restorative justice practices on a school- and even district-wide scale,” Caddy said in reference to the Restorative Justice Coalition club, which she advises.

Gulyas said he was leaving because the pandemic had intensified his cognitive dissonance in regards to compulsory public education.

“When the pedagogical relationship is fundamentally predicated on violence, that is, if you do not attend my class, and do the thing, I can have your parents arrested, essentially … [it] establishes a dysfunctional relationship that is an impediment to an education.”

Gulyas is moving to San Diego to be closer to his wife’s family. He said he plans on reactivating his mental health counselor license and possibly teaching community college.

He said much of his role as a teacher was essentially counseling, and that mental health issues were a major problem he had with the school system, using an analogy with a grocery store.

“Imagine if you went into a grocery store and there was a room off to the side… where people just went to scream, because they were angry,” Gulyas said. “You would think ‘Oh my God, why is there a room? Why is this grocery store so insanity-inducing, that they built a counseling center in it’?”

Resendiz has been teaching Spanish for 26 years, with the last four at Cal. She said being a Grizzly has been an awesome experience because Cal has her favorite students.

“The student body and staff are just so kind and welcoming,” Resendiz said.

After retiring, Resendiz is moving out-of-state and said she may stay in education as a tutor.

Tanvi Pandya contributed to this story.