VOS Staff Interviews
The following are interviews with various staff members. Click on their name to read more.
May 2019 ~ Terese Abelli-Amen, teacher
Ms. Abelli-Amen was born and raised in Massachusetts on a beach known as the "south shore" just north of Cape Cod and very close to the famous Pilgrim Rock! She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Geochemistry from the Massachusetts State University there on the south shore. Her next move had to have taken a lot of courage - she admitted to feeling some trepidation about it! Her mom even made sure she had a round-trip ticket to allow her to immediately change her mind once there and come home. She decided to move across the entire country away from her large loving family and pretty beach to attend foggy Humbolt State University in the very northwest corner of California. She earned her Masters Degree there in Geology and Environmental Systems. She also met her husband there who, after their wedding in New Hampshire, eventually took a job in Petaluma. Please click here to continue reading and to see some fun photos!
May 2019 ~ Trisha Shew, school secretary
Trisha Shew grew up in Eureka, California, and attended schools there all the way through her first semester at College of the Redwoods when she got married at just 18 years old. Her husband was in the Coast Guard and his assignments took them from Cape Disappointment, Washington, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and then to Two Rock right here in Petaluma. Trisha says she "loved traveling and discovering the treasures of new places and making new friends." Trisha says that she and the other Coast Guard wives became like family and they were a great support for each other when their husbands were "at sea" for weeks or months at a time - especially during the holidays. Fond memories of Cape Cod include very cheap lobster and huge "Crab Fests" in the base housing neighborhood. Please click here to continue reading this story.
March 2019 ~ Ms. Dana Rodriguez, school nurse
This is our fourth year having the youthful and highly trained Ms. Rodriguez as our school nurse. There are only three nurses for the school district so she is also the school nurse for all of Casa, Kenilworth, and Grant! You will not meet a more gentle, more calm and patient, steady and insightful nurse or person than Ms. Rodriguez! She says she "is available to you if you have any health concerns - especially concerns about things that are affecting your ability to study or be engaged in school work. You can email her directly (DRodriguez@PetK12.org)." You will see her regularly at Valley Oaks doing required vision and hearing screenings for 8th and 10th graders.
She is a U.C. Berkeley graduate and grew up in Fairfax in Marin. It was a dreadful car accident at age 21, that led to her inspiration to become a nurse. She says that it was a "blessing in disguise". After an induced coma for two weeks, she began to watch and talk to all of the highly skilled nurses tending to her. While trying to recover from a complicated and dangerous emergency surgery for a Grade-4 lacerated liver and in the ICU for months, she received care and attention that was both healing and instrumental for her career path. Now as a professional Public Health Nurse, as opposed to a Clinical Nurse (hospitals), she enjoys focusing on health problems and prevention and health education rather than on solely ill patients.
She trains other staff members on health issues like asthma, diabetes, seizures, allergies (bees, nuts, etc.) and first aid. She also educates other staff members about students who have temporary disabilities that may or may not be something like head concussions.
Her role is “to both to advocate for you if you ever have any health issue and to make sure that you have a plan in place to help you fully access your education.” Mentoring, monitoring and encouraging VOS teens to be successful while they struggle with painful, disruptive, annoying, and/or even sometimes scary health issues is her #1 goal!
Oct. 2018 ~ Mr. Malcolm Jamerson, school academic counselor
Mr. Jamerson grew up in East Oakland and went to the public schools there. He graduated from Skylane High School. For fun, as a kid, he would ride his bike all over town and would ride bikes with friends to see movies at Grand Lake or Parkway theaters. Nowadays, he is a great Oakland A's fan but likes all Bay Area teams. He and his beautiful wife have two energetic young boys, ages 10 and 6. Currently, he is attending Sonoma State, taking 5 classes this fall and again this spring to earn his administrators credential. He earned his Master's Degree and Counseling Credential from SSU a few years ago.
Although clearly self-directed and motivated now about his professional path, it was not always this way for Mr. Jamerson.
His passion to become a high school counselor probably stems from his experience with his own high school counselors. Although in elementary school his counselor placed him in their G.A.T.E. program (for students with high test scores and creativity/leadership aptitudes), when he got to high school, a counselor or teacher did not help direct him or motivate him for his future. Mr. Jamerson’s parents were busy working and relied on their son’s school to prepare him for his future. Mr. Jamerson says that he never really thought of his future when he was a youth and, unfortunately, he did not see a role for himself as an adult.
A young, teenage-Mr. Jamerson began to direct himself through high school and discovered that if he purposely failed the more difficult courses then he could take them in summer school where the courses were much easier! Mr. Jamerson loves sports and probably would have spent his entire high school career in sports but as a young 13-year-old, no one gave him the news that football practice started in the summer. In late August, when he asked about football, it was too late to try out. Mr. Jamerson says that he greatly regrets not playing sports in high school. Soon after missing tryouts for football, from age 14 to 18, Mr. Jamerson worked year-round at three different KFC's and this enabled him to buy a car in his junior summer and stop taking the bus to school.
Upon graduating from high school, an 18-year-old Mr. Jamerson moved into an apartment with 4 other young men, in L.A. and started attending a junior college there. Amazingly, he worked and paid for everything himself without any financial aid or parental support. He only went to college and took college classes because, he says, that’s what his parents expected him to do and insisted that he do. He discovered an interest in film working for two different film producers and he was also hired as an extra in movies. He decided he wanted to write and direct movies. This interest came about once he discovered that movies can be for more than just entertainment and that they can inspire change and good. The movie Birth of a Nation with Nate Parker was pivotal for Mr. Jamerson.
Mr. Jamerson discovered that he had finished all his general education courses at his L.A. junior college just by luck! He had never been counseled on what courses to take. He went to live in Boston for a year and then drove to New Orleans to live there for a while. Deciding to get back into school and study film, Mr. Jamerson then looked at universities. He wanted to go to NYU or to UCLA where his half-brother had graduated from, but he had never really tried to get good grades and so his GPA was not high enough to apply. He discovered that he qualified for San Francisco State and within a couple of months he was enrolled. Mr. Jamerson’s finances were so tight that he had to crash enroll in every course and then pay his tuition at the end of each semester. He did not know about financial aid and by a miracle, he says, he managed to pay for all his college and earn his bachelors degree in Cinema.
Sept. 2018 ~ Ms. Karen Kesseru, teacher
We are so happy to have Ms. Kesseru start this year as our new English teacher. She has been teaching for many years but she has not always been a teacher! Growing up in the '60s in Braddock, Pennsylvania there was much violence and unrest. Her dream there as a teenager was to become an artist and move to California. Although it took her three tries to finally move permanently to California, she did it! She also became a glass sculpture artist and studied in England for two years. Her hobby in her youth was windsurfing on the East Coast in Maryland where she and her husband built a house from scratch on a lovely country property with a creak. In Maryland, she worked as a contractor for the Navy at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Later, as a mother of 3 boys, she and her sons took up the hobby of gold mining in Quincy in the Sierras! For 14 summers they did gold mining with a friendly team of old-timer experts and have collected many nuggets!