Woodlake High students began the 2018-2019 school year on Tuesday, Aug. 14. Along with a new district superintendent and athletic director, as well as a new high school counselor, there are four new teachers on campus.
Katie Bertolucci: Choir and Performing Arts
For Katie Bertolucci, who loves to sing and knows her way on stage and behind the scenes, the full-time opportunity to develop talent at the middle school level and at Woodlake High couldn’t have come at a better time. After earning a credential in music, her specialty in choir classes included a number with conductor-specific units.
The position with WUSD is Bertolucci’s first teaching job. Raised in Cupertino, Woodlake’s newest music teacher received her Bachelor of Music and her teaching credential from San Jose State. While at San Jose, Bertolucci worked on numerous university and community performances.
In her first few days on the job, Bertolucci said she has been amused by several of the students who have asked if they will have to sing or perform. She assured them they will have nothing to fear because the first show won’t be until November and that will be a scenes performance to help build confidence among all her performers.
“My first goal is that I want my students to enjoy what they’re doing and that they look forward to coming to class,” Bertolucci said. “To do that, I want to give my students the opportunity to make decisions on what shows or performances they would like to do.”
The students who have been in choir or drama in past years know that the highlight of the season will be a spring show and, under the direction of Bertolucci, that’s going to be a musical.
“Some of my students are already lobbying for Grease,” Katie said. “The kids just love doing that show, and it’s an audience favorite too.”
Bertolucci, who currently lives in Visalia, said she has been pleased by the warm reception from the community.
“I’m excited having the opportunity that the administration is giving me here at Woodlake,” Bertolucci said. “They’re giving me free reign to develop the potential in each student – singing, and performing.”
Gary Cannon: Freshman Science
Gary Cannon is one of those rare educators who could have ended up anywhere in the world but the teaching job he wanted most was at Woodlake High School. He was raised by parents, both who were teachers, that during his early childhood heard of a teacher shortage in Australia so off they went.
By the time he was four years of age, Cannon’s parents had returned to the U.S. and were setting up school districts on Indian reservations. His earliest recollections were living ay the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. For the next few years, the Cannons moved from reservation to reservation, settling in places like Wind River, Wyo., and Pyramid Lake, Nev.
Next stop for the Cannons was Half Moon Bay, where his father worked as a school principal and his mother taught special education. There, Gary attended elementary school.
Half Moon Bay friends told the Cannons they could sell their property and move to a quaint, small town in Tulare County and have some equity left over. That small town turned out to be Exeter. Cannon entered middle school in Exeter and, in 1995, graduated from EUHS.
For the next 10 years, like many adventurous kids, Cannon lived his own version of Kerouac’s On the Road, working his way from one place to the next. After a stint in the Alaskan fishing industry, Cannon returned to Exeter where he met his wife-to-be.
Feeling the exigencies of family, Cannon needed a job and so it came as no surprise to anyone who knew him, his choice was a teaching career. Cannon enrolled at Fresno State, majored in evolutionary biology and Chicano and Latin American studies, and earned his credential in 2013. His first teaching job was at Mendota High School.
For the next five years, he taught science and chemistry to who he describes as “the hardest working kids you’ll ever meet.”
Cannon was proud of the Mendota hiking club he mentored as he took his students to places in California to experience the outdoors. But by 2018, he felt the pull to return to his roots in Tulare County.
“I applied at and was offered jobs at several schools in the area but the position I really wanted was at Woodlake,” Cannon said. “I feel at home with these students and wanted to be at a school where I could make a difference.”
Cannon, who is currently teaching Earth Science to Woodlake freshman, has already found a place to live in Three Rivers close to the mountains he can’t wait to explore. And, yes, plans for a Woodlake hiking club are already in the works.
Monte McKean: Education Specialist
Monte McKean is a 13-year veteran teacher with the Woodlake district, and this year moves from Woodlake Valley Middle School to join the staff at Woodlake High School. McKean was raised in Visalia and graduated from Mt. Whitney High School in 1980.
McKean, who lives in Visalia, has always been heavily involved in school sports and community recreation programs. In the past, he coached several Woodlake school teams including JV baseball at the high school level.
“I have two daughters who are both seniors this year,” McKean said. “One daughter is at VTEC [Visalia Technical Early College] and the other is a student and volleyball player at Cal State Monterey Bay.”
McKean said he will again have time to coach some Woodlake teams once his frequent trips to Monterey and other conference schools to watch his daughter play end with the volleyball season. He said he is enjoying his new position teaching government and history to special education students in small classes.
“I approach teaching with enthusiasm and enjoy watching my students become more self-reliant,” Monte said.
McKean said his laid-back family style resonates with students. With his students, it’s important to outline each day’s objective so they feel a sense of accomplishment.
“My main goal as an educator is to better my students’ lives by teaching them responsibility and how to be productive citizens,” he said.
Kristalyn Patzkowski: Mathematics
Kristalyn Patzkowski grew up in Reedley, attended Fresno Pacific University, and was one of those students who worked diligently to finish her four-year bachelor’s degree in three years, and is proud of the fact that she used her fourth year to get her teaching credential.
She also likes to relate the fact that by finishing five years of college in four she saved $26,000. In 2016, the FPU grad, who is also proud of her Russian heritage, was teaching at Dinuba High School; last year, she taught in the Cutler-Orosi district.
“What I hear most often from students is either ‘I hate math’ or ‘when am I ever going to use this?’, Patzkowski said. “My first goal is to a create a safe learning environment where students want to come to class.”
Although she had heard of Woodlake High, she had never actually been to Woodlake until her interview. But so far, she likes what she has seen and has learned it really is true what she had heard about Woodlake High in the past.
“Woodlake students are nice kids and, overall, respect their teachers and the opportunity to learn how to suceed in their education,” Patzkowski said.
Her enthusiasm for teaching and the subject of math is infectious.
“I like all math except statistics,” Kristalyn said. “But if I had to choose one kind of math, it’s geometry that makes my heart skip a beat.”
She relishes her full course load teaching 178 students Math II and III.
“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Kristalyn said. “It’s important to create a caring environment first then students become receptive to what I have to offer as their teacher.”