UHS Welcomes 17 New Staff Members This Year

Farah Hamza and Lila Sepici

The return to in-person learning after a tough year and a half of online and hybrid learning introduced us to several new teachers for the 2021-2022 school year. Our new staff members include teachers in almost every department, including Social Science, English, Latin, Spanish, counseling, Special Education, and the arts. UHS introduced 18 new faculty members at the start of this school year, and they show tremendous zeal and enthusiasm in providing our students the support they need, especially during the return to a different school environment. 

Mr. Brian Saipramuk is a former physics teacher who also used to coach speech and debate. “I’m looking forward to building relationships with all of my students and using that as a building block to teach them mathematics,” Mr. Spraimuk said. He is also adapting to post-quarantine school life pretty well. “I video chat with friends and family rather than meet them in person and spend more time at home. I also just get more time to watch anime. Season two of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime was amazing.” 

Ms. Kirsten Manahan is starting her teaching career at UHS this year. She’s very excited to get to know UHS’ school culture and cannot wait to join in on all of the fun activities UHS has to offer. Ms. Manahan is adapting to post-quarantine life just fine, she says. “It’s different having to dress up from head to toe now (no more pj pants while teaching, sadly.)” She thinks it makes such a difference to be able to see students in person. “Building a connection is hard to do through a computer screen, so it gives me hope that that’s one less obstacle I have to face for this school year,” says Ms. Manahan.

Mrs. Lindsay Botha taught at Portola High School for the past two years. She says she’s most excited about getting back to teaching in person again and getting back to normal. “It’s so refreshing to hear the band playing, being able to go to football games, and seeing students just hanging out having lunch together on campus,” says Mrs. Botha.

Ms. Emily Johns is teaching English at UHS. She’s most looking forward to getting to know her students in person. “I love being around people and I’m passionate about helping others see the way that the skills learned in English class apply to their lives!” As a literature major, she says she has read “A LOT” of books. However, she’s still looking for her ultimate favorite book.

Ms. Makenna Morris is teaching in the Social Science Department at UHS starting this year. She’s excited to learn and take part in all of UHS’ traditions. “I wanted to become a teacher my junior year of high school because I ended up tutoring a lot of my friends. I loved seeing my friends light up when they finally understood something, so I decided to become a teacher.” She’s adjusting well to post-quarantine school life. “I’m really just so happy to be back with my students in person because of their amazing energy and positivity.” 

Mrs. Annette Budde is also a new Social Sciences teacher. She’s most looking forward to connecting with students more consistently and getting to know the UHS staff. “Learning did not come easy for me at first, so I empathize with the student experience and seek to always make things engaging and manageable for students so that they are ready for academic life after high school.” Mrs. Budde also adds that it’s nice to be in person after a break of almost two years. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment getting back to a traditional teaching schedule, but the students are making that easy!”

Ms. Marissa Kaak is an incoming Chemistry teacher this year. She looks forward to getting to know her students and the rest of the school community. “UHS has an amazing community and I am really excited that schools are back in person this year so that I can actually be involved and get to know everyone as I get started this year.”

Mr. Nick Perfetto is a new counselor at UHS for students with the last names Li-O. He has already helped several students, including seniors who are preparing for college. “I enjoy knowing my students and seeing them develop,” said Mr. Perfetto. “I try to be welcoming, to laugh, and make it easy to communicate. I love helping people, and education is the perfect vehicle for that, especially at the hard age of high school.”

Mrs. Marina Verneuil is a new French teacher at UHS, and she has a talent for knowing a variety of other languages. “I am a Russian native speaker, but I speak French all the time,” said Mrs. Verneuil. “I also started learning Spanish just for my pleasure.”

Ms. Chyra Paxson joined our Special Education department this year, and she shows interest in the “kind” nature of the students at UHS. “I mostly work with mild/moderate students,” said Mrs. Paxson, “but so far I’ve had nothing but good experience. I am really impressed with everything, the manners, the drive of the students, and just the culture of everybody here.”

Ms. Emily Bees is another addition to our Special Education department. She has been a teacher for 11 years, and before coming to UHS, she worked at a private school where a few families had students who went to UHS. “I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call from UHS because this was my first choice,” said Ms. Bees. She has noticed that UHS students are very “respectful, very well-spoken, and talented.”

Mr. Rob Blaney comes to us from Woodbridge High School and is our newest vocal music teacher. Since Mr. Blaney has previously taught in IUSD, he is familiar with our music department. “I have been teaching at Woodbridge for 10 years,” said Mr. Blaney, “so I thought it was time for a change.”

Ms. Stacy Kruger, who graduated from Irvine High School, also started a new chapter of her teaching journey at UHS as a Spanish teacher. “I received a wonderful education here at Irvine Unified,” said Ms. Kruger. “I think that UHS kids are very motivated to get involved, especially when I saw the posters, the people that are running for council, and doing everything they can to feel connected.” 

Mr. John Conant is joining the Latin department and was a student teacher at UHS almost 12 years ago. He is currently working at both Woodbridge High School and UHS. “A lot of the people working at UHS today were here 12 years ago,” said Mr. Conant. He added that UNI students are “great”, especially because, “UNI Latin is much larger than Woodbridge.”

Mrs. Christine Haley is a new Assistant Principal here at UHS. “The pandemic is the reason I knew I needed to move from the classroom to administration,” said Mrs. Haley. “I have always worked in Irvine Unified School District and always looked at UHS as the heart of the district. As the first high school in the district, I have always believed that all good things start at UHS.”

Mr. Robbie Robinson is a new Social Science teacher here at UHS.

Mr. Anthony Keithley is a Math teacher who has also come to UHS this year.