A thank you letter to her teachers from Olivia Spina ’20

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Olivia Spina

At last year’s graduation, Olivia Spina ’20 and Kiara Hosseinion ’20 take one of many memorable selfies with Ms. Wilkinson.

Over the past eight weeks, I’ve found myself daydreaming about my time on the Hill, wondering why I’m suddenly begging to not just go back to high school but to go back to Flintridge Sacred Heart. I certainly don’t miss waking up at 6:50 a.m. every day or getting stuck behind the bus while winding my way up to campus. I miss what makes FSH great for me: the teachers. So, here is a thank you letter to the teachers who taught me something I’ll remember for years to come.

To the history department (meaning Mr. Thornton, the only history teacher I’ve ever had, aka Uncle Mike, Big Man T, etc.):

We have spent a total of 430 days together, sitting in the same room, staring at each other, anticipating the sound of the “Monday Night Football” theme song from your phone and making snarky remarks about what got edited out of the US history textbook in the South. 

As you may know, many of your students have kept a list of inspirational quotes you have said during class. Uncle Mike, I am pleased to present you with your very own highlight reel, your very own 30 for 30:

“Variety is the spice of life”

“School is as it should be: mind-numbing boredom”

“Never buy a burrito from a gas station”

“Marry rich or live with your parents”

“People are terrible”

“A true friend stabs you in the front”

You’ve proven to me and so many others that being passionate about a subject makes anything fun. Never have I ever enjoyed a history class before high school. Somehow, somewhere within your 32 years of teaching at FSHA, you’ve found a way to turn dates into a storybook, and I thank you for that.

To the art department:

Even though I made my best work junior year (which was a rough one), you guys proved to me that a person doesn’t have to be sad to do art. No matter what I was feeling or making, Ms. Kent and Ms. O taught me the importance of being thorough in everything I do, from kneading clay and washing brushes to doing the dishes and even folding the laundry. Through my years of dance, ceramics and sculpture, these teachers taught me the importance of community and collaboration. We, the students, cleaned up together — I’ll wipe down the table, you mop the floor — and we all went to each other’s events. Every ceramics kid has been to the dance concert and every dance kid has been to the art show. In the art department, this is just what you do. 

To the Spanish department:

While I may have never fully understood the difference between nosotros and vosotros, I now understand the advantage of being proficient enough in a second language to have a conversation. Yes, speaking Spanish looks good on college and job applications, but have you ever been to a flea market and asked for the price of something in Spanish instead of English? It’s crazy how making an effort to meet people halfway makes it 10 times easier to negotiate that price down. The Spanish department taught me that it’s about making an effort, not about conjugating perfectly. Work with what vocabulary you know and you will go far.

To the math department: 

Where oh where would we be without the math department? These are the hardworking men and women who taught us how to calculate Urban Outfitters sale prices. They taught us how to estimate, and look how important estimation has become! We estimate everything from how many jelly beans are in a jar to how much food we need to feed a party of 12. And let’s not forget, it is estimation that keeps us safe during our global pandemic! How else could we possibly guess what six feet looks like? 

To the science department:

I thought I’d rejected you. I told myself, despite being a wood-building wizard, that I would never love science. Nevertheless, here I am, six science classes into high school, begging sophomores to sign up for APES, even though it’s the first class that ever made me cry. The science department has taught me so much these past four years. For starters, engineering helped me realize my true love for measuring and cutting wood by hand. Summer chemistry taught me that I can do anything for six weeks no matter how cold the room is. APES taught me to be organized and efficient like a little environmentalist machine who only runs on CO2 from compost. And finally, physics taught me that life is about trial and error. Don’t put all your eggs in your first basket because it’ll probably break. XOXO, science department. Love, your secret Navy Seal.

To the English department:

I’ve always been particularly grateful for the English department (and the library squad). While my English classes have definitely been memorable, it’s really the people in the department that have rocked my world. These are the approachable, worldly and perfectly overeducated stewards and stewardesses of knowledge that have made me so grateful for this school. Don’t get me wrong, every department has this kind of person, but I’ve just found a connection with people who seriously think reading is worthwhile. And they’ve proven to me that it is. If picking up “The Great Gatsby” in 10 years will make me any bit like the teachers in the English department, then sign me up, because when I grow up, that is who I want to be (I’m planning to major in education at USF).

I want to make someone love school so much that they stay after just to hear what I think. If it can’t do that, then I better change my major. What and how this group of teachers thinks matters to me. I am eternally grateful for each harsh comment they’ve left on my papers and every golden ray of knowledge they’ve gifted to me. I don’t want these relationships to end simply because high school has, so… in honor of our lost office hours, I’m publicly requesting that Dr. Emily Wilkinson join Kiara Hosseinion ‘20 and me for a socially distant hangout in Griffith Park (post graduation, of course).

The teachers at FSH are special, to say the least. Most are friendly, some are intimidating and a few are jokesters, but I believe it’s their willingness to build legitimate relationships with students that sets them apart from other high school teachers. So here’s to these guys making the school part of high school something I’ll miss. Thank you.