New year, new staff: Meet your new teachers

Yeshi-Wangmu Sherpa and Emily Yee

Jesse Hannawalt

By Isadore Diamond

Born in San Francisco, Jesse Hannawalt grew up only a few blocks away from Lowell High School. Living so close, he enrolled at Lowell, devoting his time in high school to debate and track. After graduating in 2013, Hannawalt went on to the University of California Santa Barbara, where he double-majored in psychology and comparative literature. Deciding to pursue a career in English, Hannawalt then attended the University of British Columbia for a master’s degree in English Literature, and later New York University for his teaching degree. Now, Hannawalt has returned to Lowell as an English teacher, currently teaching English 1 and European Literature.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I love learning, and I feel like helping kids learn about anything is a pretty good purpose for a job. I was inspired to be an English teacher specifically by some of the teachers that I had here at Lowell High School when I was a student. Some of them are still here. [I had] some really awesome English classes when I was a student here. So I love reading. I love talking about books. And talking about books with students here is something I really love doing. So getting paid to do it seems like a good idea. 

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies? 

I do a lot of cooking. I do a lot of rock climbing, and a little bit of backpacking. I love being outside, and I like to make art, but have not had time to do that very much since teaching.

If you could choose to teach a different subject, what would it be?

I would love to teach psychology. I also have a degree in psychology, and I really liked AP Psychology when I was a student here. So I would love to teach that, and I think learning about the brain is very cool. I also really liked AP Environmental Science, which is very different [from] English, but I really enjoyed that class as well. But perhaps that’s just because I want an excuse to take people on field trips outside. Those are good classes. I would recommend it. 

What was your high school experience like, and what activities and clubs were involved with? 

The ones that I probably spent the most time doing were, first of all, track and field. I was a pole vaulter in high school. People might be surprised to find out about me, because I’m very short and pole vaulters are usually extremely tall. Angles work better that way. But I was a pole vaulter. I placed in All City in the finals for pole vaulting, and track and field was a big thing I did all four years. I was also involved in debate and forensics for a couple of years while I was here. I really enjoyed that. Those were probably my two favorite extracurriculars that I was involved with. 

What are you looking forward to the most in your first year at Lowell?

Well, I cannot wait to see the writing that my students produce. I am always excited every day for the in-class discussions that we have. I love to see the insights that my students bring to the books that we’re reading. I’m excited to see their perspectives; I always get fresh perspectives from students, and they always identify something that’s different from my own. I’m just excited to build those relationships with my students in general, not just through the work that they do in my class, but I love to get to know them through the extracurricular activities that they’re doing. And seeing them at their sporting events and after-school clubs is really rewarding for me, too. 

 

Kahlo Friel-Asay and Emily Yee

Kelci Hartz

By Maya Law

Kelci Hartz, Lowell’s new band teacher, was born and raised in New Jersey. She has been committed to pursuing a career in music her whole life. While her childhood dream was to become a singer, as she grew up her goal broadened to include other forms of music. She picked up the tuba in middle school and joined the marching band in high school. Hartz later attended Colorado State University, where she majored in music education. During her teaching career, Hartz has taught everything from kindergarten to 12th grade. She even moved to Korea for two years and taught there. Following those two years, she moved to San Francisco where she now teaches band, guitar, and piano at Lowell.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

It’s just sort of the only thing I could think of. When I was applying for colleges going into my senior year of high school, it was the only thing I could think to even put down. So I thought that if I have to work, then this is the job I wanna be doing. I love music and I love helping people. It’s a way for me to continue doing what I love while also bringing it to other people.

What is one thing that you think your students would be surprised to find out about you?

I feel like I’m a pretty open person. Although, one thing my guitar students might be surprised to find out is that I’ve played the guitar for less than a year. I’ve been teaching myself guitar over the past year, but I am pretty new to it.

Is there any reason you chose to teach at Lowell specifically?

Actually, yes, [it’s] kind of a funny story. So the orchestra director, Ms. Varosy, has been at Lowell for a year longer. So she got here last year. She and I actually went to college together and were really good friends. We were actually roommates. So, I found out about this job opening because she posted about it on Instagram. I saw it through her and thought, what a cool opportunity to come and teach at the same school with my friend. San Francisco is also somewhere that I’ve always wanted to live. So I applied on the off chance that I’d get the position, and now I’m here.

Do you have anything else you would like to say to Lowell students?

I’m the kind of person who wants to make music available for everybody at school, not only people who are in my classes. So, if anyone reading is interested in getting into music, or they play an instrument and they’re looking for people to play with, or for a place to practice, or some support, they can come to me whether they’re in my class or not and I want to help them access those things and find a space for it here. 

 

Yeshi-Wangmu Sherpa and Emily Yee

Matt McDonnell

By Victoria Pan

Lowell’s new librarian, Matt McDonnell, hails from the suburbs of Los Angeles. He majored in biology at UCLA before moving to San Francisco for graduate school. Here, he met his wife and became a physics teacher at Mission High School. However, when his former principal pitched the idea of becoming a librarian, Mr. Mcdonnell found his true passion.  

What inspired you to become a librarian?

The library is a place to come and find information but also find relevant and credible information and use that information to build new knowledge. I really value that one of the rules of the library is to participate in providing and promoting access to stories and perspectives that go beyond the large body of centuries worth of patriarchal white supremacist, what we call the “canon” of classical literature and information — all these voices that have been marginalized historically to join in the work of bringing those together. 

What are you most looking forward to in your first year at lowell?

I have already been enjoying getting to know the Lowell community; it’s so big. And I haven’t been new to a school community in 23 years. So it’s a very different perspective. I particularly enjoy the environment of the library and how many students come to the library, how it is valued as a space and a resource. I’m excited to come to work every morning because I know that I’m going to spend the day with people who are appreciative of the library as a resource and who I can partner with in academic growth. I’m just really enjoying getting to know the Lowell community. 

What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

My wife and I love to take walks. We go to Golden Gate Park, we walk around our neighborhood, and during the pandemic, we would walk five to seven miles every day. But also, I sang in the men’s glee club and the gospel choir in college, and I sang in my church choir for 20 years. So I love to sing. And I haven’t been able to pick this up in a long time, but I love to dabble in art, especially sculpting with clay. When I first moved to SF, I had a part time job and had a lot of free time so I sculpted an entire chess set of Star Wars characters. 

What was your  high school experience like?

I went to a school that, in many ways, was the opposite of Lowell. It was in Southern California; it was a very small religious private school. My graduating class was nine people. We just had a Zoom reunion last year and all nine of us fit on the screen! Because it was so small, I was able to play varsity basketball. There’s no way I would have been able to make a varsity basketball team at any other school, but I was tall and they needed more people. I played that for three years, and by the end my skills grew and I was actually able to score some points. Another thing that was great was I was part of the drama program and I loved that. 

Growing up, what books, TV shows, or movies did you like?

I’m a huge sci-fi and fantasy and comedy nerd. In high school, we would have sleepovers and watch hours and hours of British comedy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but also Tolkien. That was the first time I read Lord of the Rings. And my friends and I would reread it at least once a year. We had a friend who worked at a movie theater who could get us in for free and we saw every sci fi and fantasy movie that came out for three years, it was great. 

Advice for your high school self/Lowell students?

For Lowell students in particular, let me tell you, I have very few memories of amazing classroom lessons; it’s the relational things that stayed with me. Learning is important, academics are important, but don’t let it overshadow your development as an individual. What makes you you and not anybody else is important and precious. What’s important is the relationships so don’t take anything for granted. But also it’s very likely that the most important relationships in your life, at least some of them, are going to be with people you haven’t met yet. So high school is a great time, but this is not your peak, it’s a step on the way.

 

Yeshi-Wangmu Sherpa and Emily Yee

Bradley Schwartz

By Laura Reyes

American Democracy and Economics teacher Bradley Schwartz knew he wanted to become a teacher at the age of five. As a preschooler, he would teach a class to his stuffed animals, placing them on a table piled with books. For his undergraduate degree, he attended Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, where he majored in history and minored in journalism. Schwartz later earned his graduate degree in human resources and organization development at San Francisco State University.

What was your high school experience like?

I was definitely a nerdy kid. I mean, I joined track, just so I could have my Letterman’s jacket. When I was a senior, I was a class officer. And I was the editor of the yearbook. And it’s funny those skills [from] spirit week and rally days, those skills have actually come in handy in helping with the last pride parade. I helped with the gathering at the Civic Center. The skills that I learned from rallies and from spirit week, I applied.

If you could choose a different subject to teach, what would you teach?

I’m kind of a history nerd. So I would probably do American history. I love how history is the story of a people or peoples, and the journey they go through. Some of it good, some of it unfortunate. As a result, lessons are learned. If we don’t learn from history, we will repeat it.

What is your favorite part of teaching?

The kids, of course. Everyone has something to offer in terms of experience and culture. I remember my US History teacher, Mr. Wick, was an interesting storyteller. And he treated us with respect and care.

What is one thing students would be surprised to find out about you?

I play ultimate Frisbee. I play disc golf and I am in a league. The course at Golden Gate Park is one of my favorites. I like friends of various ages and walks of life. There’s some interesting folks in the group. I am in Golden Gate park at least twice a week.

What are your other hobbies?

I like to swing dance. Swing dance is from an older era. But the music we use, the beat, is contemporary music. So like Charlie Puth’s “Attention.” I’ve always liked dancing. Swing is very interactive and has some style. You can dance to it with popular music, and I love the style of dancing.