by Anika Jain (’22) and Arhana Aatresh (’23) | October 11, 2021
One day, every single one of us will matriculate from Saint Francis. What will follow these four years of high school? How will the lessons we have learned within the walls of these classrooms impact the trajectories of our lives? Perhaps your experiences might pan out like those of English Department Chair and teacher, Ms. Amy Sherrard (’10), for whom Saint Francis has played an incalculable role in life, from career choice to partner.
The Lancer: What were some of your favorite classes and teachers at Saint Francis?
Ms. Amy Sherrard: I had Mr. Quinn for AP English Language and Composition, and I think that’s the reason why I’m an English teacher and why I majored in English—Early Medieval English Literature, in particular—so that was very influential. I also had Mrs. Shortal for AP European History when she was still Ms. Muller, and I love her as everyone does. But the teacher that I was probably the closest with was Mr. Smith, who was my freshman English teacher and for whom I was a TA for all four years of high school. We were tight; he was like an extra uncle.
TL: What extracurricular activities were you involved with at Saint Francis?
AS: So many. I was really into publications, so I did the newspaper, Mindframes, and Photography Club—similar to what I do now as an adult. I spent a lot of time in the California Scholarship Federation (CSF). Oh, my friends started the Baking Club. I don’t know if they still have this board structure, but my friend invented a role for me called the “Baker Extraordinaire.” I was a big baker in high school, so it was pretty fun.
TL: How did Saint Francis prepare you for your current job?
AS: It seriously is one to one. What’s interesting is in high school, I thought I was going to work in publications, so at UCLA I worked for the Daily Bruin, which was the third most widely distributed paper in Los Angeles County. And working a daily newspaper was just a miserable job for me. So I started to think about teaching. I had a friend who was volunteering as a creative writing teacher, and I’m not much of a creative writer, but I thought, “I’ll teach creative writing.” She helped me land a job at a new high school, and it turned out to be a continuation high school where kids can remediate or make up credit. I did not know this when I went to the school, so the first interaction I had with a kid was when I was teaching poetry and symbolism. This girl says, “Okay, I want to write a symbol for my daughter.” She was probably 17. I felt like I was struck by lightning, you know? But I loved working there. I thought maybe I’ll do nonprofit education, maybe I’ll get a Ph.D. in English, maybe I’ll earn a teaching credential. I asked a professor who was a mentor of mine—and wrote the book that the new medieval movie The Last Duel is based on—whether I should go for a Ph.D. He told me that if you pursue a Ph.D., you’ll end up wherever there’s a tenure track position. So you might end up living in St. Louis, Missouri for the rest of your life. But I was trying to come back to the Bay, because my now husband was here. So I decided to get a teaching credential. I actually came back here when Ms. Wilson-Friedsam was the English Department Chair. I watched Mr. Quinn teach. I did some of my set observations here, and it reconnected me to why I liked high school, and in the end, why I was teaching high school. And so I came back.
TL: What is your favorite memory from Saint Francis?
AS: I met my husband here. There used to be this elective called Contemporary World Problems about countries with problems. It’s not a title that we would have today. Mr. Christensen, who just retired, was teaching the class, and my husband and I were in the same class. Each person did a presentation on a different country. My husband was presenting, and I thought, “That’s weird. I thought he already did his presentation, but I guess I forgot.” The first slide is Canada, and I should have known right away because at the time, Canada did not have any major conflict. The next slide was fake facts about Canada, but I slowly realized they were all facts about me. Like Canada’s national rock was my birth stone. He and Christensen were in cahoots, so he had hidden this huge bouquet behind the podium before class and asked me to prom via this hilarious fake presentation.
TL: Were there any popular fads that you may have participated in during your high school years at Saint Francis?
AS: Ugg boots were new. Every single person had them except for me. Moccasins were also popular. There was no social media other than Facebook. This is pre-meme, but there were these things called stickers on Facebook that you could send to other peoples’ Facebook walls. If people stuck a lot of funny stickers on your page, then you were considered “cool.” Some trends I think are due to return, like very tight plaid or checkerboard pants. Trying to look like a late ‘70s, early ‘80s punk rock star was very cool. Or trying to look like Paris Hilton.
TL: What music did you listen to in high school?
AS: Let’s see, Cobra Starships. I used to go to concerts all the time at The Warfield, and my friend’s dad would drive us and sit in the back with earplugs.
TL: If you had to identify one event from your high school years, inside or outside Saint Francis, that had a significant impact on you, what would that event be?
AS: Honestly, it was when Ms. Ochs, my Precalculus Honors teacher, sat me, my now husband, and one of our best friends Kevin Bitter in this trio. I feel like the course of my life changed forever because of that seating arrangement. [Kevin] was our wedding officiant. It’s weird to think about what my life would look like now if I had not sat there.
TL: Final question, do you have any advice for current students?
AS: High school—and being a teenager in general—is a time when you have very strong emotional reactions and connections. I think that more teenagers should lean into that instead of away. By biology, you are not going to feel things that intensely ever again. And it’s cool. Things are so low risk—even though they feel high risk when you are a teenager—but the reality is that it’s a perfect time to do what feels a little risky. Not in a bad way, but in an exciting way. Talk to that person, go on the drive, take those trips. Push boundaries in a safe way. This may be lame to say, but high school is cool. But if it’s not cool, the rest of your life is so much better. If it’s not, then maybe do something else.
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
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