Josh Bandy

Walnut welcomes new teachers


Nelson Chen, Social Science and PE/ROP Dean

Q: What were your expectations for the position of dean?

A: I am working closely with teachers. Making sure [they] are feeling the love and support they deserve to ensure that they’re successful in their own classrooms. This could be anything from instructional supplies, supporting them in their curriculum, getting to know them better and establishing that kind of personal relationship, where we know each other not just because of work, but in other ways as well. Typically, [we’re] just meeting the needs of what the teachers want and what they need to be successful for the [kids].

Q: What do you hope to gain from being dean?

A: Better [communication] and just meeting the needs of what teachers need. I know how to work with students because I’ve been doing that for a very long time, and a lot of my colleagues who are teachers probably have never seen me in this role before where I actually get to support them however they need it. [We’re] building that relationship, building that trust. I actively answer their emails, answer their calls, and let them know that I’m here for them so that they don’t feel like they’re alone on this big campus.

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: I never saw myself going in this career if you were to ask me in college. I fell in love with science, and I knew that I loved working with athletes and sports medicine, so that was definitely something I pursued. When I came to Walnut and they gave me that opportunity to teach in a classroom, I took a chance and before I knew it, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with working with students, meeting the needs that help them be successful, watching them at graduation, seeing them go to college or go to work and being passionate about a career. If they fell in love with something that I was able to teach them, then that was an extra bonus for me: that I left that imprint in their life.


Josh Bandy

Josh Bandy, English

Q: What did you do before coming to Walnut?

A:I had several different jobs before coming to Walnut. I was student-teaching over at Ontario High School and I worked with freshmen, sophomores and seniors. Before teaching, I worked as an apartment manager at an apartment complex. I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time. I was a manager in a coffee shop in Orange County for a little while. There was one summer when I cleaned pools in Corona, where it gets to be 104 to 105 degrees.

Q: Why did you choose to become a teacher?

A: I chose to become a teacher because I am passionate about serving and making people’s lives better and making the world a better place essentially. In my eyes, teaching is such a great way to do that because I get to work with 150 kids each day and have the opportunity to teach them something to help improve their lives. That is really exciting and the idea of being able to do that really appealed to me. I think teachers should constantly be adapting and learning to improve upon themselves. I am relatively new to the profession, but I’m committed to trying and learning new things.

Q: What are you most excited for this year?

A: I’m excited because this is my first year teaching juniors. I am excited for the Junior Research Paper and interested to see how it goes and how the kids respond to it because I know that some people will view it with trepidation, but I am excited to see how that process works. I was actually just informed that I would the new co-advisor of FBLA, and that’s not something that I have participated in when I was in high school. I have heard from Principal Dade that the students involved with FBLA are exceptional individuals and it’s a really fun experience.



Sarah Bilton, Math

Q: What did you do before coming to Walnut?

A: “I taught at a high school in Northern California called Davis High School. I taught Algebra and Pre-Algebra there. Before that, I taught seventh and eighth grade math, science and art.”

Q: What are your expectations in coming here?

A: I think I expect to grow a lot as a teacher since I’m still pretty new to teaching. I think I expect to stay here awhile and get to know students and build relationships with them that last longer than just a year. I expect to get involved in something, maybe find a club or sport that I can advise and that’d be a good place to build those relationships.

Q: Why did you decide to be a teacher?

A: I had an awesome math teacher in high school who pushed me and told me everyday that I need to pursue a math degree because I was good at it. I was a camp counselor and just through working at a summer camp, I discovered I really like working with students. I think a lot of people don’t like math, and since I like it so much, I figured, somebody’s got to. I hope to change a lot of people’s opinions about math.



Ellie Blanchard, Science

Q: What did you do before coming to Walnut?

A: I did my observations at Diamond Bar High School and student-taught at Yorba Linda High School. From there, my husband and I thought it would be a really fun adventure to move to Colorado. So at Colorado, I did my first year of teaching, and I taught Biology and Earth Science there. But we realized we really belonged in California, so we moved home.

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: I had always had it in the back of my mind because my mom is a teacher — she teaches elementary school — so I spent a lot of time just in her classroom as a kid. And when I went into college, I really wanted to investigate the medical field; that was interesting to me. So I started with nursing, actually, and I took a microbiology course, and I really loved it.

Q: What experience do you hope to get from teaching at Walnut?

A: Everyday, I go home and my husband’s like, “How’s your day?” And I’m like just beaming because the students here genuinely care. They genuinely care what we’re learning and doing, and they’re sweet and polite — it’s overwhelming.  I hope to stay here for the rest of my life, until I die. I really mean that though, I want my whole career to be at Walnut. I would hope I can help develop Project Lead the Way — and get more kids involved in it, so it can be something that stays. I think it’s just the enthusiasm of everyone here. I would classify myself as an ambitious person, so I feel like I’m with my people.



Aaron Cornell, ADP Social Science

Q: Can you describe your background at Walnut and why you decided to come back?

A: I was the head basketball coach at Walnut. I taught here from 1997 to 2005. Knowing the students and faculty here, when the opportunity came up this summer, I was probably the first one to put my application in.

Q: Why did you decide to change your occupation from working in healthcare to teaching?

A: I left Walnut to start my own business [in healthcare]. Getting home at 9 o’clock is never a lot of fun [for the family]. I sold my business, then I went to work for the competitor for four years. [But there] was too much time away from family, so I wanted to get back into education.

Q: Is there something about education that you really enjoy or something that you really value?

A: [I enjoy] the relationships, building it with the kids. I really enjoy teaching the seniors because they’re near the end, but they’re also near the beginning. They’re going to get into an environment where subject matters of Economics and Civics are going to make a lot of sense to them within a couple of months.



Marcus Evangelista, Science

Q: Where does your love for science come from?

A: I’ve always liked science as a kid. I would have a science lab in the garage or I was always trying to grow things in the backyard and do experiments at home and that was all throughout high school. I studied biology in college, and I just stuck with it and as soon as I took house education classes, [since] it was the thing I knew I was so excited about doing.

Q: What made you want to become a teacher?

A: When I was at Irvine, I took some education classes, and I found that I loved teaching. It was the first time I have worked at other places before I worked at the hospital. I worked at some biology centers and taught when I took education class. It was the first time where I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited to go into work. That’s when I knew this was my thing, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Q: What do you hope to bring to Walnut as a teacher?

A: I know the kids here are successful, but I hope I can push their success level a little further. When I was at Damien High School, I was the robotics coach and the engineering coach. We brought some teams to the national and world championships so that’s definitely something I’d bring here. I was [also] part of the aquatics program. I was a swimmer and a water polo player and so when I have a little more time in my schedule, I’d like to help out with the aquatics program.



Alyssia Infante, Science

Q: What did you do before coming to Walnut?

A: I worked at the Ocean Institute for about a year and a half at Dana Point. I was a science instructor there, which got me into teaching instead of research, and I also worked in the outdoor education department for sixth grade science camps. I also worked in the maritime department, so I used to be a deckhand on a tall ship.

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: At the Ocean Institute, I did teaching. I taught pre-K to college level field trips, and I also worked as a research scientist on the RVC Explore, which is the research boat there. I do whale-watching, tours, collect Benthic samples, use dichotomous keys to figure out what fish it was, and I figured out that I like the teaching part better. I liked that moment of seeing a student who has never been to the beach [get] super excited and want to learn and form a hypothesis, so that’s why I decided to go to Azusa Pacific for my master’s degree. I’m currently working my Master’s in Education, and I just finished my credentials in June. I like high school students the best. I feel like you can have more fun with them, getting them ready for the next step in their life.

Q: What experience do you hope to get from teaching at Walnut?

A: I hope to become a better educator. I feel like there is always an opportunity to learn every single day, so my goal is to never stop learning and learn from the students, learn from the staff and just make a wonderful educational experience for my students. I’m looking forward to getting to know the staff better since this is my first year teaching here. I also want to see what type of clubs or activities are on campus.


David Park

David Park, Social Science

Q: Before coming to Walnut what did you do?

A: I taught at a charter school in Los Angeles. I taught middle school history. There was a very diverse population. Having grown up in the suburbs all my life, [I was] able to teach students from the city, [and] it was obviously a different experience. It was a smaller school so at times you would be left doing things on your own.

Q: Before coming to Walnut, what are some of the things you’ve heard about Walnut, and what kind of expectations do you have coming into this job?

A: Being a strong school, having kids that are very self-motivated and high goal-oriented, I knew coming in that the kids would want more than just someone who would teach them material because Walnut kids aim high. You step foot on this campus, and you immediately know these kids want more. They want careers. They want something a lot bigger than [careers]. There’s a higher expectation, and it challenges me to step up my game. I know what type of school [and community] this is. I had a good idea coming in, what I needed to do and what kind of teacher I needed to be.

Q: What motivated you to become a teacher?

A: School was never really my thing [when I was a student]. I teach psychology, but I have a degree in history, and I always wanted to teach history. I had great history teachers throughout Chaparral and Diamond Bar. Despite not doing well in school, or struggling a lot in subject areas, my social studies teachers were usually the ones that pushed me, believed in me and challenged me to be more. I think the stereotype of Walnut is that everyone is super high-achieving, but there are a lot of students here that aren’t part of that, and they fall on the wayside. There is a need for teachers who can see that students struggle [in certain areas] and may not be able to reach those expectations. If you work with them and build that relationship, they can achieve great things too.



Jamie Ramer, Special Education

Q: What did you do before coming to Walnut?

A: I was a long-term substitute teacher at Covina Valley for fourth and fifth grade special education.
Q: Why did you come to Walnut?

A: I’ve heard nothing but good things about this school and this district. I just feel like it’s the place to be. There’s so much support here for everyone, students and teachers. Someone is always there to help if you need it, and that’s something really special about Walnut. I didn’t really have any expectations coming here because I’ve learned that it’s better to have no expectations. However, if I did have any expectations, Walnut really has surpassed all of them.

Q: Why did you decide to teach special education?

A: All teachers want to make a difference, and I’ve always loved being at school. Being a teacher is also beneficial for my family because I am able to spend more time at home with my kids. As a teacher, I want to make a difference, and I thought that I would be able to create a greater impact on students by working with special education students who need more help. These students are sometimes under the radar, and they just need more support.



Trisha Shah, Science

Q: Why did you choose to teach at Walnut?

A: I think the environment here in Walnut is just very different. The students are much more driven and focused on school and enjoy coming to school, which [is] something all teachers want to come to. They don’t want to teach someone who doesn’t want to be there. But then again, our job is to make them feel that they should come and push them to be motivated.

Q: What did you do before coming to here?

A: I taught Life Science to 7th graders at Bellflower Middle School. During my student teaching, I taught Biology. [I chose science because] I had an interest for science and math so I was debating between teaching science or teaching math, but I actually majored in Biology when I was in college.”

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: My parents were immigrants, so they did not [have] any idea on how school worked and as an older sibling, I was the one who had to figure school out on my own. I’m just trying to be there for someone who may not have that home and guidance they need to succeed in school.


Katie Takahashi

Katelyn Takahashi, Orchestra

Q: Why did you come to Walnut?

A: I graduated from Walnut in 2013, and it’s always been my dream to return back to my high school and to teach again. It’s been a goal of mine for the past four years to come back. When I was in high school, I was drum major of the marching band. I was really involved in the music program here. I was here the very first year that we moved into this new building so there was a lot that I really loved about the program, and it’s always been something I wanted to come back and continue with.

Q: What are some of the things you plan to implement to your teaching that you believe made your experience successful and fun when you were here at Walnut?

A: One of the biggest [things] that happened when I was in high school at Walnut was [when] I started the Band Buddies program, which is where we collaborated with elementary schools and their music program. We invited them to the high school to come play a concert, we did rehearsals, we had food and we gave them t-shirts. It was just a really fun time, and that’s something I want to continue to implement: just collaborating with different schools [and] different age groups across the district. We’re going into our eighth season of Band Buddies. I also want to continue to create relationships with Suzanne Middle School, South Pointe and Diamond Bar.

Q: You mentioned Mr. Wicks and Dr. Clements and you’re building on their kind of legacy. How does it feel to kind of be in their footsteps?

A: It’s unbelievable how much Mr. Wicks and Dr. Clements [have] taught me over the past eight years because I’ve known them for that long. I consider both of them as second father figures because they have mentored me. [They’re] so loving and so caring and supportive of me through my high school journey and through my music education college career. To be able to take over something Dr. Clements built up from the ground is a huge honor for me.



Faith Villanueva, ROP

Q: What did you do before coming to Walnut?

A: Before Walnut, I was the certified athletic trainer and sports medicine instructor at Diamond Ranch High School, so it was pretty similar except they didn’t have a sports medicine program there; we were just establishing it. I was there for about two years, and that was after I had graduated college.

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: When I was in high school, I had sort of a rough upbringing, and my mom didn’t know anything about higher education. We didn’t have too much money, and there was my athletic trainer and a few really key teachers that helped to guide me. They had a ton of mentorship and advice for me, and they really took me under their wing. If it weren’t for their guidance and help, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, and who knows where I would’ve ended up. When I think back to all of the things that I’ve accomplished, it was really because of those people, and so I wanted to make sure I could come back for high school students and offer that same type of mentorship and support.

Q: Why did you come to Walnut?

A: Back when I was in college I did an internship through the athletic training program with Nelson Chen, so I knew I already wanted to work at a high school. When I worked with Nelson, I absolutely loved Walnut. There is some great spirit here. Everybody’s so happy, everybody wants to be here. They’re passionate about what they do, and that’s the kind of environment I want to be in. When I came here, he really introduced me to the Walnut way and showed what Walnut was all about.


Compiled by Hoofprint staff

Photos by Kevin Arifin, Jamie Chan, Airi Gonzalez, Isaac Le, Samantha Lee and Emily Ng

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