New year, new staff: Meet your new teachers, part 4


Doyeon Kim, Korean Teacher

By Darren Chin

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Ms. Doyeon enrolled at San Francisco State University and graduated with a Bachelors in Child and Adolescent Development. She began teaching Korean classes at Claire Lilienthal Elementary School before coming to Lowell. Outside of teaching, she enjoys golfing, walking and hiking with her dog, and watching Korean dramas. Doyeon said that at the end of the year, she wants her students to be able to understand Korean movies without the use of subtitles. She also explained that she never gives up on her students, and ensures that everybody that is falling behind can receive the help they can.

Illustration by Nicole Wong, Photo by Ryson Sun

How different is it at Lowell compared to the school where you used to teach?

Well, I’ve never worked for a high school before. I taught elementary school and middle school Korean classes before coming here. One thing that I can do with high school students is that they can do many things and handle the work at a fast pace, they use a lot of technology already, and it makes my job easier as I don’t have to explain everything. 

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I’ve always had a desire to teach because it makes me feel good to help others, especially when it comes to the Korean language and culture. Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by amazing instructors that have motivated me to be the best teacher I can be for my current and future students. 

What’s your teaching philosophy? 

My philosophy with teaching is that I never give up on my students. I will do everything I can to ensure anybody who is falling behind is caught up and that my students remember what I have taught them long after they’ve taken my class.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with your students that makes you unique? 

I like to eat Korean food, obviously. If I ever get the chance to, I would love to go to a Korean restaurant with my students.


Anna Varsoy, Orchestra Teacher

By Madeleine Johnston

Illustration by Raymund Yuan, Photo by Marlena Rhode

After moving from San Francisco to Colorado at 10 years of age, Lowell’s new orchestra teacher, Anna Varosy, knew she would return to the city one day. With a love of music and an eagerness to improve music education in urban school districts, she joined the Lowell team. Now she is experiencing the joys of working with passionate students and giving them artistic breaks in their busy schedules.

What brought you to Lowell or San Francisco in general?

Being a music person, it was shocking to me how little music experience I had in elementary school compared to what my peers in Colorado had had in elementary school. It became increasingly clear to me throughout my college education that there’s a huge discrepancy in available music education between urban school districts and that of rural areas. So I felt really called to come back to the city, bringing music education and advocating for it. Lowell has had a long history of a really successful orchestra program, so I felt really lucky to step into that role and continue working with really talented musicians here at Lowell. But I do think that there is an opportunity for me to be an advocate in the district to make sure that the feeder middle schools have strong groups of students that are being sent to the high school level to participate in orchestra.

What do you do in your free time?

I enjoy painting, listening to music, and rollerblading. I love rollerblading around Golden Gate Park, but I avoid any sort of hill and stay on flat ground!

What to you is the most rewarding part of being a teacher?

To me, it’s when students realize that they got something, when they demonstrate that they’re proud of themselves. I’m like the sappiest person ever and I’m constantly so proud of my students, I’m like, Oh my gosh that was so good, I’m so proud of you! But it’s those moments when they play something or they finish a concert and they realize, Wow, I did a good job. I’m really proud of myself. Them having that feeling and having awareness that they grew as a learner, as a musician, getting to watch that is very rewarding. 

What do you think makes teaching at Lowell a special experience?

Something that I’ve noticed teaching at Lowell, specifically in the music world, is that these kids are so stressed about like the million AP classes they’re taking, and then they get to come to orchestra and it’s something that’s a little bit less stressful. It’s something they can do for fun that they can do with their peers. Since it’s a collaborative effort, it’s not, Okay I need to study for my AP exam, its, Okay we need to make our ensemble sound good, we have to work together and I need to listen to the person next to me. So getting to fill that kind of role for the students at Lowell, I think they appreciate being in orchestra and being in the ensemble more than students at other students or in other areas.

Is there anything else you want the Lowell community to know about you and what you’d like to do at Lowell?

I’m a big advocate for trying to get any introductory music classes at Lowell, because right now to do the music classes you had to have done some kind of music in, say, middle school. You can’t just join orchestra if you’ve never played before. So I’m trying to, hopefully next year or in future years, implement a beginning orchestra class so that they can just jump in. So that someone who has never touched a violin can now learn to play it as a 9th or 10th grader. So hopefully that will be an option for Lowell students to take part in and relieve stress.


Catherine Theilen-Burke, Art Teacher 

By Karis Kotschnig

Born and raised in San Francisco, Catherine Theilen Burke attended Lowell. She grew up surrounded by art, as her mother was involved in community programs and worked with Ruth Asawa to bring art to classrooms across the city. Before joining SFUSD 15 years ago, Theilen-Burke held various positions, including teaching at San Francisco Recreation and Parks and the Bay Area Discovery Museum. She has worked on several other galleries and coordinated SFUSD’s children’s art exhibit. When she’s not teaching art at Lowell, Theilen-Burke enjoys sketching urban scenes and making creations with hot wax.

Illustration by Raymund Yuan, Photo by Yeshi-Wangmu Sherpa

What are the challenges and what are the rewards of being a teacher? How would you describe your teaching style?

The reward is just connecting with people. Being around young people is a real privilege. I just feel lucky to be a part of young people’s lives, as corny as it sounds. I just really like being a part of their world. And, well, there are many challenges. You want to serve, and you want to help each student. But it’s just a world of continuous improvement. My leadership style is to lead by encouragement. Not so hierarchical, but more of a coach.

Has growing up in San Francisco inspired you at all?

Yes, definitely. Just being around so many cultural institutions and getting so much exposure to outdoor art, murals, sculptures, freeform, graffiti and all that. 

What brought you to Lowell? 

I worked with Ms. Jansen, [Lowell’s previous art teacher], through this festival that I did for SFUSD. I always just loved the artwork that came from Lowell because it was so innovative. Ms. Jansen had a structure where students did a lot of conceptual projects, and worked a lot with ideas. When the opportunity came up to take her place during her sabbatical, and to continue her curriculum, I was really excited. I thought, Oh, that would be so good for me to have that experience. 

What are your first impressions of Lowell?

It’s just been really great. A lot of the students already have experience with drawing, so it’s fun because we’ll be able to do all kinds of things to build on that.

What are you most excited to teach your students this year? 

I want to expose them to as many different kinds of art as possible in the hopes that they will find something that they are really excited about. The arts have shifted from being purely technical, where you just acquire skills, to inquiry where you’re following your interests and just learning art skills that way, by drawing and sculpting things that are relevant to you. So I want to cover as many art forms as possible, and explore as many ideas as possible. 

What are you hoping your students take away from your class this year

I want them to look at outdoor art, because during the pandemic everything was closed, but there was this whole new art form on store fronts. I just want them to look around and see and appreciate all the art that is out there, and maybe they’ll want to become part of it.


Chad Gaver, English teacher

By Anton Kox

Born and raised in the suburban town of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Chad Gaver began his career teaching English at Antioch High School. After five years teaching English at Paul Revere Elementary, and a decade at Herbert Hoover Middle School, he’s now at Lowell, teaching English to 9th and 11th graders. Seeing the passion of his high school psychology teacher inspired him to go into teaching. Outside of school, Gaver likes to run and spend time with his six-year-old son. 

Illustration by Elise Muchowski, Photo by Kimi Norway

How was your first day teaching at Lowell?

Usually going back to school is this big relief, because I’m ready for it. This year, nobody really knew how to be ready for it. It was overwhelming. There’s masks, there’s fears, there’s a lot of fear out there about getting the virus. And that’s on top of switching jobs, having a lot of work to do, and reworking the wheels.

You’ve been teaching for 16 years. How has it been adapting to Lowell? 

As far as adapting, every single classroom that I’ve ever entered had some moment of getting to know what the students needed. You spend the first week figuring out where your students are at, where their reading levels are, what you think their writing levels are. You assess that through assignments throughout the week. And I think the apex of that would’ve been getting back the first set of essays I got back from my 11th graders, and they looked incredible. There were a few I wanted to share with my colleagues because they were written so well. I don’t know if I’ve experienced that before. 

What compelled you to go into teaching?

I had a couple of really valuable teachers when I was in high school, and that really was what framed the idea of doing that. My American history class in senior year and my psychology class in sophomore year were probably the two most fascinating classes I had. They were taught by the same teacher, who was one of the key reasons I went into teaching. Because that kind of inspiration and having fun with content was something that was really valuable to me, I was hoping that I could do it too.

What are the challenges of teaching?

I think the biggest challenge is just making sure I’m doing enough every day. I’m meeting [students] at their level so they’re prepared for the next one, because that’s ultimately the goal. We have to assume every student is going to go onto something after [high school]. Specifically at this school, it’s a place that’s academic. You can assume college but you shouldn’t. You don’t want to create a gap in a student’s development. That makes it so they’re limited by some of the choices that I made. 

What are your hobbies outside of teaching?

I run every day. I’m actually currently injured from running unfortunately, but I run eight miles every morning — it’s one of my favorite things to do. I have a six year old son, going on seven, so hanging out with him is really fun. It’s a really fun age before he begins to dislike me. And I have a group of really good friends that I like to hang out with. Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons is where our kids can all get together and we can have fun.