By Connie and Lynn Baer
One of the things that makes Grossmont High School remarkable is the number of alumni who return as staff members. Two of our longest serving principals were Walter Barnett, Class of 1928, and Bill Davis, Class of 1948. Other early teachers returning to GHS included Elsie Moriarty Reed, Class of 1922; Coach Laurie Head, Class of 1928; Jim Parker, Class of 1931; Hal Doerr, Class of 1954; and Fred Helm, Class of 1964 among numerous others.
Once alumnus return to Grossmont, they almost always remain for most, if not all, of their careers. Today’s Foothiller staff includes an amazing 21 GHS alumnus: 18 teachers and three staff members. The years of their graduation range from Frank Foggiano in 1968 to Carolyn Jungman in 2010.
The pride of the staff members is obvious in their comments about their school.
“Grossmont has a real sense of community,” said Jeff Lee, Class of 2004. “I believe this is due to the many students who are children or grandchildren of GHS alumni. I am honored to be a part of a great community.”
Bree Honeycutt Pagano, Class of 2001, is also from a family of Foothillers.
“My maternal grandparents attended Grossmont in the 1950s,” she said.
“I love my students and I find them fascinating every day,” said math teacher Yvonne Baer Vellone, Class of 1975. “I also love my co-workers who make my job easier every day. We help and support each other to make Grossmont a great place to be for students and teachers.”
Returning teachers do have the challenge of learning to become colleagues of their former teachers. U.S. History teacher Don Ginn, Class of 1987, had Frank Foggiano for math in the same room that Foggiano teaches in now.
Although he still teaches in the same room, much has changed at Grossmont since Foggiano, Class of 1968, was a student.
“The student demographic has changed dramatically from a predominately white student body when I was in school to a completely diverse population,” he said, adding that he is happy that student involvement has continued to happen because of the unique opportunities students have.
Teacher Carolyn Jungman, Class of 2010, has a unique deja vu about her current classroom.
“I have the bizarre experience of teaching in the same room where I was a student,” she said. “Being back on the other side of the desks is exciting and absolutely crazy, but I love it.”
Brie Pagano said that “Señorita Park” (another GHS alumnus) still speaks to her in Spanish whenever she sees her, just as she does to all her students.
Tom Karlo, Class of 1992, current Varsity Football Coach, has daily reminders of being a player himself as he coaches his players.
Karen Willson Manns, Class of 1977, who has been teaching at Grossmont for 28 years, loves the individuality of each student and how they come together to bring spirit and pride to the campus.
“I can honestly say that there is not a better place to be than GHS where students are number one,” she said.
Long-time teachers remark on the new buildings that have populated the campus in the past five years, but nostalgically remember being in the Old Main — the 1937 classroom building that housed the English Department and is now part of the District Office.
“It’s too bad that the kids don’t get to experience having classes in the Old Main; I always loved being in an old building that so many Foothillers had passed through,” said Jeremy Cooke, Class of 2001.
Pat Giovengo, Class of 1985, summed up how the alumni staff members feel about being at Grossmont.
“I have had several job opportunities at other schools and even had an offer to join a major corporation in teaching Computer Science teachers globally, but I really have no desire to be anywhere else than right here,” he said.
—Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the Grossmont High School Museum. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.