The last time Ms. Angelica Aros was at Pueblo, as a high school senior in the 1999-2000 school year, PHS still had pay phones around campus; 18 years ago, students—and much of the world—did not know what cell phones were. People were still “paging” on their “beepers”, she recalled.
Aros is Pueblo’s newest attendance clerk—filling in for Ms. Rosalie Sinteral, who retired in December. But, she is not new to working in T.U.S.D.
“I know this [attendance office] work extremely well,” Aros said. “I could do this job in my sleep.”
Prior to returning to Pueblo, Aros worked at Pistor Middle School for seven years; then, she moved to Hohokam Middle School until the facility closed, at which time she transitioned to Tucson High Magnet School, where she remained for nearly four years.
Following graduation from Pueblo High School in the spring of 2000, Aros (whose maiden name was Miranda) attended Pima Community College with a soccer scholarship.
“Sports were always my passion in high school,” Aros said. “In fact, they still are.”
She added that although she loves her job, sometimes she chuckles at some of the excuses parents give for their children being absent or tardy.
“I could probably write a book about all of the stories I’ve heard [from parents],” Aros said. “As silly as some of the excuses are, we [the attendance office] have to accept them as legitimate.”
Except for the pay phones being removed from campus, Aros said that Pueblo “pretty much looks the same” as it did back in 2000.
Former Pueblo student Ms. Imelda G. Cortez has returned to Pueblo to teach junior and senior English. As a 2009 high school graduate, Cortez began her collegiate career at the University of Arizona where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Mexican-American studies; later, she earned a Master’s degree in higher education.
Cortez explained that she decided to become a teacher while attending middle school. After attending Pueblo and graduating eight years ago in 2009, she definitely knew that she wanted to become a Warrior alumni.
“It’s [returning to Pueblo is] really like coming home,” Cortez said. “I feel like I’m returning the favor.”
She added that she hopes that all of her students will pass her class and earn their language arts credits in order to graduate from high school.
“I have to admit that I truly like all of my students this school year, and I can honestly say that I don’t have one bad class,” Cortez said.
This doesn’t mean that Cortez doesn’t have her fair share of teacher challenges.
“Finding content that is appealing to all students can be challenging,” she said. “Most of my students—not all—don’t seem to be interested in anything [at this time of the school year]. This makes teaching harder.”
She added that she has also learned that that treating students with dignity and respect is key to having a good relationship with them.
“Students reciprocate those actions [dignity and respect] with their teachers,” Cortez said. “I have also learned that it’s best to be as transparent as you can with students as opposed to making things up. One of my classroom agreements is: no one knows everything, but together we know a lot.”
Cortez also helps out with the “IAMME” Club—providing support and resources for what the students want to do for the club and school.
One of Cortez’ current students, senior Riana Lara, said, “I love being in Ms. Cortez’ English class because I’m able to speak my opinion and how she motivates and engages her students to complete all of the great activities that she assigns.”
On the first day of the 21st Century (Jan. 1, 2001), Ms. Sarah Barnes, one of the most visibly new employees at Pueblo High School this school year, arrived in Tucson from the East Coast, serving as a multi-tiered systems facilitator to help teachers learn new strategies to help increase our students’ test scores—as well as boost the overall morale at Pueblo.
Late last semester, Barnes was the primary speaker for our entire student population during a cohort meeting, stressing responsible cell phone behavior and other important social media advice.
“I want to get to know everybody at Pueblo,” Barnes said. “I want to know our students, the teachers, work with administrators and I want people to ask questions because I have a lot of questions to ask. In the short time that I’ve been here, I can tell that this school has a heart and soul.”
Barnes was born in Delaware in 1977, and while visiting Tucson, she fell in love with the weather, so she transferred from the University of Delaware to the University of Arizona.
“Moving here [to Tucson] was like getting out of jail,” Barnes said. “It was liberating to get out of Delaware for many personal reasons.”
She explained that education was not her first choice for a career. In fact, Barnes said that she studied criminology and even considered joining the police academy.
“Somehow my focus changed to education when I met somebody who suggested that I become a teacher,” Barnes said. “That somebody was our assistant principal Frank Rosthenhausler.”
She taught math for more than a dozen years before becoming interested in becoming a multi-tiered systems facilitator.
“I want to be a positive influence at Pueblo,” Barnes said. “I’m here for just about everybody—especially our students. But, I want teachers to know, too, that I wholeheartedly support them in every way possible.”
Barnes helps recognize students’—and teachers’!—perfect attendance this school year, printing achievement certificates for them.
After the sudden retirement of registrar Ms. Marina Ordoñez last summer, a new Warrior comes to the rescue to fill that position: Ms. Rachel Apalategui—who actually knew Ordoñez for many years prior to coming to Pueblo.
Apalategui is no stranger to Tucson Unified School District. She has worked at multiple schools, including Grijalva Elementary School, Pistor Middle School, Tucson High Magnet School and now at Pueblo.
“So far, I really do enjoy being here,” Apalategui said. “Pueblo people are very sweet, and our students are very, very kind.”
Coming to Pueblo has been somewhat of a bittersweet transition, Apalategui admitted. She spent 14 years at Tucson High, which she said kept her “grounded”.
“To be honest, I was really homesick [for Tucson High] in my first few weeks of being at Pueblo,” Apalategui said. “However, I have no regrets at all at this time, but coming here was a really huge change. I was used to more than 3,200 students compared to half of that number at Pueblo.” She paused and said, “I do love the smaller numbers.”
To be a high school registrar requires a great deal of communication and diplomacy, Apalategui explained. For example, this spring, she has to ensure that seniors have sufficient credits to graduate, and that can be very frustrating. She added that she has to have a frequent dialogue with counselors to make sure every senior is on track to graduate—and how to help every senior graduate in May.
“My advice to students—and especially to seniors this semester—is to make an appointment with their counselors to make a plan to best suit their chances of graduating on time,” she said. “Nothing is more tragic than seniors waiting until the last few weeks before graduation only to realize that they are missing one credit or even one-half credit—and not graduating until summer.”
Although her office walls are a bit bare, they won’t be for long, Apalategui insisted.
New this school year to the administrative family at Pueblo High School is former English teacher Ms. Kathryn Gunnels, who officially begins as assistant principal with a long list of responsibilities, including the planning of meetings for teachers (Professional Learning Communities), supervising advanced learning opportunities, finalizing the master schedule and organizing student-testing events.
She also communicates to staff via a weekly update on teachers’ computer work stations.
“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Gunnels said, “but I also love it—not only to help students but also to support Pueblo’s great teaching staff.”
Gunnels, who taught English for 10 years at Pueblo (in two separate time periods), actually fulfilled her student-teaching assignment under the supervision of Mr. Manny Galvan, who retired a few years ago (but occasionally substitute-teaches) and Ms. Marci Bowman, who also retired from teaching.
“I knew then [while student-teaching] that Pueblo was a special place,” Gunnels said. “I may have left Pueblo for a few years [to pursue other positions], but I’m definitely back, and it feels like a second home.”
She revealed that education was not her first career choice. Gunnels said that she majored in business, but after mentoring at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind, she was inspired to become an educator.
And, as far as being the fourth employee with the surname “Gunnels” to be employed at Pueblo High School, Assistant Principal Gunnels said, “We have a rule at our house at the dinner table. My husband, two sons and I are not allowed to talk about school.”
Husband Mr. Michael Gunnels is a communications media tech teacher; son Jeren is a transition school-to-work instructional specialist; and other son, Derek, is an exceptional education teacher.
“I’m here [as an assistant principal] especially for our students,” Gunnels said. “I want students to know that when they make mistakes or face monumental obstacles, it’s not the end of the world. I want to help them realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I want to help them find solutions to their problems.”
She added, “I want our students at Pueblo to know that they can do anything with their lives—they have the potential to achieve greatness.”
Pueblo’s Hiking Club, sponsored by Mr. Ernesto Somoza, is off and running to new heights this year, as a record number of Warriors have joined—a total of approximately 50!—including about 10 adults, which include several teachers.
Last school year, 13 Hiking Club students participated in a Grand Canyon experience during spring break, which may have contributed to the high number of students joining this year, Somoza said. The trip was “very successful” and seemed to be an impetus for students wanting to join this school year.
Somoza plans to repeat this trip during spring break this March—due in part to the success of the club’s tax credit drive which raised more than $1,250. He added that he would love to take students to out-of-state hikes, including Yosemite in Central California and Arches National Park in Southern Utah—among other places. The more tax credit donations that the club receives, the more trips the club can partake in during the school year.
He added that only 10 students are able to participate in the Grand Canyon trip, and this participation is based on students’ generous tax dollars they donate to the club as well as their activeness in the club throughout the school year.
“The club has an excellent variety of students this year,” Somoza said. “They come with a variety of skill levels and with an enthusiasm to spend time in the outdoors.”Meetings take place in Mr. Somoza’s classroom (T-12) after school on the first Tuesday of each month. Club President Anette Durazo ensures that the club stay organized and helps approve hiking trips.
Durazo said, “Being in the Hiking Club has truly helped me become more outgoing. I love Arizona more than I did being. Going to Sedona last April really opened my eyes about seeing this great state. I love being outdoors a lot more now and appreciating nature.”
She added that the club’s next trip is scheduled for Feb. 10 to Colossal Caves, just east of Tucson.
“Even though I’m a native Tucsonan, I’ve never been to Colossal Caves,” Durazo said. “In fact, I’ve never been inside a real cave and looking forward to it.”
Senior Thai Kromrei, who has been a member of the Hiking Club for two years, said, “I’ve gotten to experience seeing Arizona. It’s such a beautiful and geographically diverse state. I want to see it all now, and thanks to Mr. Somoza, we are seeing a great chunk of it.”
The club was founded in the fall of 2015, Somoza’s first full school year.
The inception of the Hiking Club was the result of a conversation that Somoza had with (then) Assistant Principal Alma Carmona while attending a conference in Colorado. Somoza was talking to her about how he wanted to become more involved outside of the classroom. As a result of his over-zealous spirit, Carmona encouraged Somoza to become a Class of 2019 sponsor as well as the advisor of the newly-found Hiking Club.
“I hiked a lot during my college years, and I wanted students to experience what I enjoyed so much,” Somoza said.
He added that besides the Grand Canyon trip, Hiking Club members can expect other adventurous moments this semester—including the trip to Sedona and other small trips around the Tucson area.
“After I graduate, I plan to stay involved with the Hiking Club,” Durazo said. “Perhaps I could be a chaperone for high school students’ trips—to give me a chance to see more of Arizona and help promote a very worthy club.”