The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

New year, new staff: Meet your new teachers part 3

Estella Niday, health teacher 

By Ramona Jacobson

Lucas Larson

Estella Niday always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She enjoyed school as a child, and created strategies to help herself succeed as a student. Through her teaching, she hopes to aid and inspire students to enjoy school as well. She is the parent of a nine-year-old boy, and describes herself as a “soccer mom”. In addition to parenting, she enjoys spending time outdoors — walking, hiking and gardening. She recently moved to the Bay Area from Santa Barbara, and while she misses her previous home, she’s excited to immerse herself in the culture and community of Lowell.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I think I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I loved being a student, and I created my own study skills that helped me while I was in school. I want to be a teacher so I can help kids who struggle with school, or don’t like school, find ways to succeed and enjoy being students.

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

I’m a parent of a nine-year-old boy, so I’m kind of a soccer mom right now, but I enjoy walking and hiking. I’ve also been getting into gardening, and I’m excited about planting some trees in my garden.

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

I would like to teach art, because I love colors and I enjoy being creative. So being an art teacher would be fun. I like to go with the flow, and I have to force myself to stick to a schedule, so I think teaching art would allow me to be more bohemian and free.

What was your high school experience like?

It was kind of hard. It felt isolating, even though I had friends, because I was trying to figure out how to be a student, and other things about myself and about life, and I didn’t really have anyone to help me with that. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to become a teacher, because I feel like I really understand the struggles of being in high school, and I want to help students who are struggling. 

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

Maybe that I’ve gone skydiving. I think my students might not expect me to be the kind of person who has done something as adventurous as skydiving, but I have! 

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

I’m excited to meet the staff and the students, and to get involved in the community here at Lowell.


Joelle Dugay, biology teacher

By Hayden Miller

Alex Mangot

Joelle Dugay was born and raised in the Bay Area. Interested in science from a young age, Dugay earned her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from San Francisco State University. She worked as an educator and researcher for several nonprofit organizations and taught in South San Francisco before joining Lowell’s science department where she now teaches Biology.

What got you interested in teaching?

I have been fascinated by science, particularly by bugs since I was in grade school. After I got my degree, I worked as a researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, but I also got involved in their youth outreach programs, including high school internships and volunteer programs. I also did several outreach events talking to the community, and I really enjoyed that. That led me to get a job as a STEM programs director at Balboa High School through the Japanese Community Youth Council, and I ultimately returned to SF State to get my teaching credential.

What are some of your interests outside of science?

I’ve always enjoyed Anime. I grew up watching Naruto and Yugio. Currently in terms of Anime and Manga, I’m watching Jujutsu Kaisen which I’m a huge fan of, but I’m open to all types of stories and shows. I’m also currently enjoying Spy Family.

If you didn’t teach science, what other subject would you choose to teach?

As a student, my second favorite subject was a tie between English and social studies, which are a lot of reading and writing. If I had to teach I’d maybe choose psychology which is still science-related but more behavioral. 

What are your first impressions of Lowell?

I really appreciate the passion of the students here. I love seeing [that] every student has a specific subject that they’re interested to talk about. I think it’s really awesome the amount of clubs and programs and overall opportunities this school provides. It’s really supportive of students’ academics but also their personal interests. My colleagues are also great and have made me feel really supported working here.


Jake Barkemeyer, history teacher

Danah Aroonchaipirom

By Thomas Harrison

After an intense seven-year stint at Wallenberg, including time as a department head for history, Jake Barkemeyer has come to Lowell to take a step back. Raised on a farm in New Mexico, Barkemeyer took an interest in teaching history after seeing how passionate his college professor was about the history classes he taught. Although he knows how much pressure Lowell can put on a person, Barkemeyer hopes that students in his AP U.S. History and World History classes remember that it’s important to enjoy their teenage years while they still can. 

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

Math. I taught math before at Wallenberg. I always loved math. It’s a fun subject to teach. But not as fun as history.

What’s your favorite part of teaching?

Just the conversations we can have in class with students and with each other about important topics and things that are important in the world and why things are the way they are.

What’s something that your students would be surprised to find out about you?

I grew up on a farm, raising animals — very different from living in a city or anybody’s reality here in San Francisco.

What was your high school experience like?

Again, it was very different. It took about an hour to get to my rural school, but not because of traffic, it was just so far away. I lived in the middle of nowhere. Most people at school were going to be farmers, and not a lot of people left where I’m from. 

What inspired you to become a teacher?

A couple of things, but the biggest thing was when I was in college I was studying to be an architect, and I took a class on American history and my professor just loved teaching so much and I enjoyed the class because he enjoyed teaching it so much. It just looked fun, and I was able to have these great conversations with him about pursuing teaching, and that’s when I decided that that’s what I wanna do. I wanted to be like him.

What made you choose Lowell specifically?

I was at Wallenberg for seven years and I did everything there. I coached, supervised many activities, and was the department chair for history. I felt that I needed to not do so much. Then I was asked to come to Lowell and I saw it as a good opportunity to step back before burning myself out. 

Anything else you’d like to say to Lowell students?

I’ve noticed that there is a lot of pressure on Lowell students where they often put themselves down. But I just want to remind Lowell students that you can still be a student. I know you have a lot of pressure but I want to make sure that you still get to enjoy high school. Remember, you’re still teenagers; enjoy it while you can.


Julia Reagan, English teacher

By Sia Terplan

Lucas Larson

Julia Reagan was born in Oakland and raised in Petaluma, but she always knew she wanted to leave the Bay Area. After graduating high school she attended Sara Laurence College, but dropped out to become an au pair in Germany. She then went to Reed College to finish her major in literature, and continued her education at UC Berkeley, doing graduate work in German. Reagan realized that getting her PhD was not the right path for her, so she decided to pursue teaching instead. She taught English at John O’Connell High School before coming to Lowell to teach English 1 and 2. 

When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher? 

I was at UC Berkeley getting a PhD in German, but I realized I didn’t want to be an academic. I felt like it was really isolating, like when you get to a level where you’re studying something and become so focused on this specific thing that nobody else knows about it. It stopped me from enjoying the thing that I loved about literature, which is discussion and sharing the experience of a text. As a PhD student you generally get to teach undergraduates, so I was teaching German 1 at the same time. That was something that originally I dreaded because I was nervous about it and hadn’t taught before, but it ended up being one of the better parts of that whole experience. So I ended up dropping out of my PhD program and going to a credential program instead. 

What are your hobbies? 

I like to read. I also like to bake. I make all the birthday cakes for my niece and nephew; I just made a Poke Ball shaped cake. I also just like walking and biking around San Francisco.

What would students be surprised to learn about you? 

I graduated high school when I was 17 and moved out immediately. I had been working as a waitress, so that summer I paid rent and lived in Santa Cruz. I also dropped out of my first college and went to live in Germany as an au pair, like a live-in nanny, before I went to Reed [College]. Sarah Laurence was my first college but I was only there for a semester. I was kind of burnt out from high school and felt pressured to go right away. I would have liked to have taken a gap year from the start. I also had culture shock because I had never really spent time on the East Coast, and I went to a public school where almost nobody left the state.

What was your high school experience like? 

English was my favorite subject, although I also really liked my biology class and AP Psychology class. I was kind of a typical hard working and motivated student. I did really well in school and I also hated it. But for me it wasn’t the academics, like I didn’t find it stressful. I was just someone who very much wanted to get out of town, and so I was just trying to get through it until I could leave and go to college. I feel like I didn’t find my people until I left. 

What are you looking forward to the most at Lowell?

I have been teaching high school for the last four years, so for me it is learning how a new, different school works. I think each school really has its own culture, so that gives me a chance to grow my practice of how I teach. And I’m already finding I can teach in different ways here. 


Julia Letzel, drama teacher

Lucas Larson

By Hayden Miller

Julia Letzel has always been a hardcore “theater kKid.” Growing up as a queer person in conservative Orange County, Letzel found it difficult expressing her authentic self. San Francisco called her name as she looked for an inclusive city to attend university. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts at SF State, she moved to the home of Broadway. She lived in New York for 10 years until the pandemic struck, leading her to look for work that made a difference in society, which she has found in teaching. Letzel returned to SF State, obtaining her master’s degree and teaching for two years before joining Lowell’s Art Department as a drama teacher.

What got you interested in drama?

I’ve been doing it my whole life. Like a stereotypical theater kid, my parents put me in all the sports, but I wasn’t clicking with any of them. Then they put me in the theater, and [I] was like, “Ooh my gosh, this is where I was meant to be!” So ever since I was seven, I have been doing theater. I love theater.

What is your favorite performance you’ve done?

When I was 23, I played Venla in Spring Awakening, and that was a very big performance for me. It was wonderful. It was one of my favorite musicals, so getting to play the lead was just awesome.

What made you want to be a teacher?

I went and did the whole New York grind for about 10 years and really just kind of thought, come 2020, acting was too self- serving and I should try to do something more to help. I realized theater’s ability to make a difference, so I pursued a master’s degree in theater education. I focused on using theater to educate both adults and youth, as even adults need education.

What drew you to San Francisco after growing up in Orange County?

So one of my main reasons for wanting to come up here is because in Orange County I had the opposite experience you had growing up in San Francisco. Especially in the early 2000s, it was, and still is, very much conservative. I was one of the few organizers of a “No on Prop 8” rally that was happening when I was in school. Prop 8 was the act that made marriage equality illegal, so same-sex partners could no longer get married. San Francisco’s Mayor at the time, Gavin Newsom [was] of course like, “Wwell, San Francisco is still gonna allow that.”I wanted to be in a place that was entirely opposite of [the beliefs of] Orange County. When I came to San Francisco, I really found [that]. Even [after] living in Brooklyn for almost 10 years, I still longed to be back in the bay because this group of people is just so amazing.

What are your first impressions of Lowell? What stands out to you?

Well, 19-year-old college students are not that different from 17-year-old high school students, so how I teach my lessons has not really been impacted that much. You guys are so used to just a rigorous course load, so my students are able to learn a bunch of the themes I learned in college such as Meisner work or who Stanislavski is, and I can talk with the students about this and they can understand it, while when I was in high school I would have been like, “What?!??”

Do you have advice for students who may be considering drama as a career?

The main thing is to be confident in yourself and what you have to give. I know that’s like cliche, but especially with acting, you need to really know who you are and love who you are because you are going to have a lot of [rejection] thrown at you, so having that armor is really really helpful. Even if that armor is just looking in the mirror each day and saying, “I am wonderful, I am worthy, and I am talented.” That’s my main advice: just believe in yourself, trust yourself, and don’t let anyone dim your light.

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About the Contributors
Ramona Jacobson
Ramona Jacobson, Columns Editor
She/Her Ramona is a junior at Lowell who enjoys green tea, rain, and the 24 bus. She never leaves home without her headphones.
Hayden Miller
Hayden Miller, Reporter
He/Him Hayden Miller is a Senior and a reporter for the Lowell. Hayden serves on the San Francisco Youth Commission and is an advocate for better public transportation throughout California. When he is not in a government meeting, you can find Hayden enjoying a burrito, on a bus in rural Northern California, or biking with friends.
Thomas Harrison
Thomas Harrison, Reporter
He/Him Thomas Harrison is a junior at Lowell. Outside of school, he loves to listen to music, go to concerts, and ignore his homework. His favorite artists include Underscores, Jane Remover, and Car Seat Headrest.
Sia Terplan
Sia Terplan, Reporter
She/Her Sia is a Senior at Lowell. You can find her at Peet’s almost every day after school, with the same latte order. She wants to learn latte art some day, that way she can work at a cafe and make designs in the drinks.
Joey He
Joey He, Illustrator
She/Her Joey is currently a junior at Lowell. In her leisure time, she enjoys watercolor painting, baking, and traveling.
Lucas Larson
Lucas Larson, Photographer
He/Him Lucas is a current senior at Lowell. He is only ever doing one of four things: using old film cameras, riding his mountain bike, driving his dad's collection of old cars, or sleeping.
Danah Aroonchaipirom
Danah Aroonchaipirom, Photographer
He/Him Danah is a junior who has a love for media production ranging from photography, cinematography to singing and acting. He loves making short films, staying out late and planning group hangouts.
Alex Mangot
Alex Mangot, Photographer
He/Him Alex is a sophomore photographer. He likes to surf and wrestle. He also has a photography instagram account @mango_takes_pictures.

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