UHS Welcomes Nine New Staff Members


Natalie Torres

Ms. Gutierrez, the newest member of the Special Education Department.

Mia Barajas-Kua, Staff Writer

This year UHS welcomed nine new staff members, including Allison Keating as the Administrative Assistant to the Principal, Michelle Benham and Griffe Albaugh from the Social Science Department, Eli Youhanna from the Math Department, Lori Smock in Administration, Merissa Gutierrez an Education Specialist, Christine Maneewongwathana from the Visual and Performing Arts Department, Joshua Ruelas the new Athletic Trainer and Zeff Dena from the PE Department. 

There are currently 43 schools located in IUSD. With so many schools, Youhanna explained that he chose UHS to give back and empower teens. 

“My children grew up in Irvine and attended IUSD schools,” Youhanna said. “Teaching here is one way to support and give back to this community and empower our youth.”

Benham started as an Instructional Assistant working for the Special Education Department during the 2019-2020 school year and began student teaching in the fall of 2021. She mentioned that her mentor teacher, Ms. Koch, was amazing.

“After student teaching, I became a long-term substitute teacher and taught Global Perspectives and Political Science,” Benham said. “In my years at UNI, I have gotten to know so many people, students and staff, that have been so warm and welcoming.”

Everyone has different reasons for deciding to pursue the subject they are teaching. For Benham, she knew she wanted to teach social science since she was fascinated with history when she was younger. Her goal is to install that passion for history and social science into her students.

“I also believe that social science is one of the most important subjects because we get you ready for the real world,” Benham said. “We teach you how to navigate the information you come into contact with every day, and I believe that having that skill is so incredibly important.”

Youhanna talked about how math had always been his niche. 

I grew up learning math using multiple approaches,” Youhanna said.  “As a lifelong learner, I have appreciated the “aha” moments when reaching a correct solution. I feel it is my obligation to help others experience these ‘aha’ moments. Being recognized and encouraged by my college math professors influenced me to become a math teacher. I look forward to a great year with my students!”

Overall, the new staff members share feelings of excitement for their first year here at UHS. 

“[I’m looking forward to getting] to know our wonderful staff and students and to get involved by attending games [and] plays,” Keating said.