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It can be hard to see our teachers as anything other than educators, but many of them are also masters of unique talents. From chefs and artists to marathon athletes, M-A is full of talented teachers. 

English teacher Lisa Otsuka is a skilled baker and chef with a wide repertoire. “I love to bake bread, but I also really love to make pastas and pies. I also like to make cream puffs and eclairs,” she said.

Baking has brought Otsuka closer to her grandmother. “It really connects me to my grandmother, because she was a big bread maker,” she shared. “I use her cookbooks for all my Armenian breads.”

Her scrumptious skills are popular with her students, as she often brings her creations to class to share with them. “I seriously do love feeding people,” she said. “I love watching people eat. It’s very much a labor of love.”

English teacher David Rosenberg is an avid skateboarder who has shredded with professionals and appeared in magazines. He has learned from many different mentors since he was young, but owes a lot of his talent to tireless practice. “In skateboarding you can have people who teach you but, you just have to fall 1,000 times,” he explained. 

By age twelve, he had sponsors and was traveling with professional skateboarders. While he admitted that various injuries the sport gave him has taken a toll, Rosenberg still tries to skate at least two or three times a week. 

Despite the bruises, skateboarding sticks with Rosenberg in many positive ways. “It’s what taught me everything of value in my life,” he said. “You’re falling, you’re physically hurting yourself. But failure is the greatest teacher—if you fall down and drag yourself back up, it’ll give you a life skill that will serve you far beyond the skateboard.” 

Like Rosenberg, Biology teacher Lauren Lesyna is a talented athlete, as well. She has been a competitive swimmer since the age of four or five and started playing water polo at twelve years old. After she graduated high school, she began coaching water polo at Gunn High School, and it was this experience that made her want to become a teacher.

Lesyna is currently in her fifth year of coaching M-A’s girl’s water polo team, and she continues to compete in marathons and races. She explained, “I’m following a list called the Oceans Seven which is a series of seven channel swims that get longer as you go. So far I’ve done four of them.” Lesyna’s longest swim was across the Kaiwi Channel in Hawaii which took her 16 hours and 55 minutes to complete. 

“I love being in the ocean and nature,” she said. “I’ve seen some pilot whales and humpback whales and I’ve swam with dolphins.”

Lesyna also finds value in the mental component of the activity. She explained, “When you’re swimming, the only thing you have to do is put one arm in front of the other. I can get into that meditative space where I don’t worry about anything except for what I’m currently doing.”

Some teachers have even turned their talents into part-time jobs. Math teacher Jennifer Che is skilled at calligraphy, the art of decorative handwriting. Social media inspired her to begin in 2013. “I started off doing bullet journaling as a way to schedule my day,” she said. “I wanted to make it look pretty, so I started doing calligraphy.” 

Now, Che runs a side business where she writes calligraphy on items like wedding invitations and menus. “I love it because it’s just a time to slow down, set aside my phone, and just be in my own little world,” she said. In her classroom, Che writes the date on the board and even her name on the door in masterful calligraphy. 

Math and study skills teacher Cary Milia also loves art, but prefers the audible variety.  He first picked up the guitar at twelve years old, and mostly learned to play from his friends. Since high school, he has been playing gigs with bands around the Bay. “I like to play blues, rock, and old-school country music,” he said. “My wife got me into Bob Dylan, and I love how he blends those genres together.” Milia can also play the bass and has recently ventured into singing. 

Although he is currently in-between bands, he continues to practice at least once a day. “There are always so many more things to learn,” he said. “It keeps me excited and motivated to always be working on improving and learning new songs. I have a long way to go, but I’m excited to play and sing for the rest of my days.”

Hopefully you have learned more about the talented teachers of M-A. And if you are feeling inspired, make sure to strike up conversation with these teachers next time you see them! 

Kitty is a junior at M-A and this is her first year of journalism. She hopes to write about events and culture at M-A and the community. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends and family, and is on the dance team.

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