Pioneering Paths: Teachers’ Unconventional Journeys to M-A

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Growing up, every kid often hears, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” However, in high school the question becomes, “What major are you applying for?” or “What are you doing after you graduate?” While some students have a solid idea of what they want to study, others feel hesitant to decide on a specific path.

M-A teachers shared their rollercoaster journeys that led them to their current jobs, proving that where you begin doesn’t always determine where you end up.

While Sarah Frivold originally wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, she was introduced to the wonderful world of photography through a class in her junior year of highschool, a subject she quickly knew she wanted to pursue.

After graduating high school, Frivold took a gap year to film a documentary in Nepal. “I was blown away at the beauty and reality of nature,” she said. “My trip to Nepal grew my interest in photography so much.” After arriving home, she decided to apply to colleges that had exceptional art programs. She ultimately landed at UC Santa Cruz because they had a dark room, a space used to develop light-sensitive film and photographs.

However, Frivold explained, “It wasn’t until after I enrolled and attempted to use the dark room that I was turned down, because the program was crowded. Only juniors and seniors were allowed to use it. So I dropped out.”

She ended up graduating from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she learned more about the photography profession.

“That’s when I traveled all around the United States, Costa Rica, and Spain,” she said. “I had my first art show and sold my first pieces.” All the while, she spent her free time volunteering to teach students about photography.

Frivold quickly realized she needed a steady income, saying, “I wanted more stability but also time to make art. What better job than teaching?” She began volunteering at after-school programs, including one at Sequoia High School, in order to figure out what age group she wanted to teach. 

While she explored a career in teaching, a new hobby arose: woodworking. She chose M-A as her new home because it was one of the only schools that offered her the opportunity to earn a credential for teaching woodworking.

While currently Frivold mainly sticks to photography, she constantly imagines other areas to explore. She said,  “I still have it in the back of my mind to do woodworking and get that credential. I’ve been a waitress, nanny, worked in a kid’s store, and volunteered. Now I’m like, ‘What does it take to be an interior designer?’” 

Frivold said she wished she had put herself out in the world more, but nonetheless she doesn’t regret any part of her journey.

Patrick Roisen dreamt of drawing and writing comic books when he was younger. He applied to UC Davis as an art major, but has to take required science courses there, as well. “They were tough classes, but really fun,” he said.

Roisen pursued his growing interest in science by minoring in biology. He shared, “My girlfriend at the time was a biology major, and she wanted someone to talk to during her biochemistry class, so she convinced me to join.”

Additionally, he believed learning about biology would improve his comic books. “I thought it might make my superhero’s superpowers more science-based,” he said.

As Roisen’s love for science grew throughout college, the looming presence of the “real world” began crashing down. He needed a stable job that paid well, and his dreams of pursuing a career involving comic books were crushed when he found out there were merely 200 jobs in the entire industry, even amidst the early 90’s comic book boom. He had to be realistic in his professional approach after graduation.

Roisen took interest in education after tutoring his friends and classmates in chemistry, and he decided to pursue it further after taking a class taught by an education professor he grew to respect immensely. I thought, ‘These education classes are kind of interesting,’” he said. “I convinced my parents to pay for a fifth year of college so I could figure it out.” 

After graduating, Roisen got an internship at a small school in Woodland, California. The school was made up of students who had been kicked out of both their high school and continuation schools. He described, “Every kid had a probation officer and was a member of a gang. It was a very different dynamic than I was ever exposed to.” Roisen enjoyed his position because he realized he could “help kids that everyone else had already written off.”

Roisen now teaches freshman and AP Biology at M-A because he always wants to know how the world—in this case, the body—works. “When I look at things, either I get what’s going on, or I sit there and wonder, ‘How could that happen?’”

As for social sciences teacher Jason Knowles: “Right before college, I decided I wanted to be a sports radio broadcaster,” he said. After transferring from junior college to the University of Southern California, he took communication classes and reported for the campus radio station.

He said, “I did play-by-play announcing, was a DJ, was a sports announcer, and worked on a radio show. I loved it.” As a football star at USC, he knew everything about sports and hoped to professionally pursue sports broadcasting.

However, Knowles made a switch when his sociology class required him to tutor at a local elementary school. “They put me in a kindergarten classroom, and the teacher assigned me to help a little girl with Down syndrome who struggled to differentiate her colors. Every week, I would bring candy and fruit to work with her.” After months of work, she eventually got all her colors down. After this happened, Knowles said, “She ran up to me, hugged both of my legs, and said ‘Gracias, Maestro. Gracias. Gracias.’ And I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ It was really powerful.” 

Knowles has no regrets about his decision to teach, but still hopes to one day become a sports broadcaster. To hesitant or nervous students who are unsure about their future profession, he advises, “Know what you’re good at, and let that guide you. The skills you have can be improved and apply to a bunch of different professions, and you can find what you love.”

Avery is a senior in her first year of writing for the Chronicle. She seeks out stories that highlight student life on campus and runs the Galles Guide. In her free time, she likes to spend time with family and friends, often at the beach!

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