Story written by feature editor Allison Louie and news editor Camryn Pak
Although Sunny Hills in the last decade has had its fair share of students whose parents are also teachers here, the amount has been increasing recently to a point that the eight we spotlight will reach double figures by the next school year.
So what’s it like to be a student whose parent is a teacher on the same campus?
Or whose father is the school district’s superintendent?
Or whose mother is a newly elected trustee on the district’s school board?
Do any of them get special privileges? Do they face more pressure to succeed or be a model student because their parents work here or for the district?
The Accolade interviews eight of these students attending Sunny Hills now and their parents to find out.
It’s a term used for children attending their parents’ alma mater.
Sunny Hills has had its fair share of legacy students in the past. All three children of Spanish teacher Gene Bordy, a Class of 1973 alumnus, attended and graduated as Lancers in 2010, 2012 and 2017.
This year, the campus has two more: sophomore Hannah Kim, the daughter of English teacher Jennifer Kim (Class of 1991) and freshman Nick Wilde, the son of social science teacher David Wilde (also Class of 1991).
“I definitely think my experience as a student here influenced my decision in Hannah coming,” Jennifer Kim said. “The caliber of the education that I received here assured me that my daughter would get a top-rate education.”
After her daughter graduated from Friends Christian Middle School in Yorba Linda, she would have normally attended her home school, Brea Olinda High School. But the transition to Sunny Hills and leaving some her friends behind did not faze Hannah Kim.
“I feel like because my mom’s a really social teacher, it was easier for me to make friends,” said Hannah Kim, whose mother has been driving her to Sunny Hills for zero period and staying until after her daughter’s tennis practice ends for the past two years.
Jennifer Kim said that she wanted to have her daughter in her class. She also taught four out of the six English honors classes at the time, so the chances that she would have Hannah Kim as a student were high. Hannah Kim originally didn’t want many of her peers to know about her background, especially when she was in her mother’s freshman English honors class.
“I didn’t want my classmates to feel obligated to be nice to me or to be wary around me because I’m a teacher’s daughter,” Hannah Kim said. “But now that they know, none of that really happens.”
Hannah Kim would always grab food from Jennifer Kim’s fridge, so she was surprised that her peers did not figure out her identity sooner. However, they eventually found out.
“One day, [my mom] got food poisoning and left early, and some of the kids who already knew asked me to call her, so I kind of had to tell the rest of the class,” Hannah Kim said. “I was surprised that they didn’t find out sooner.”
Some of the perks of having her mom on campus include having good lunches — Jennifer Kim goes off campus to buy lunch for her daughter during her free period — and knowing what classes to take, said Hannah Kim.
“She knows the other teachers and their teaching styles,” Hannah Kim said. “She’ll know which teachers are good for me and what programs will benefit me instead of wasting my time.”
As a student here, Jennifer Kim said she never fathomed having her kids attend her alma mater. That’s also true of David Wilde, who said he let his children choose between enrolling at Sunny Hills or Fullerton Union High School [FUHS], where his wife works as an assistant principal.
Despite his first son choosing to attend FUHS, his second son, freshman Nick Wilde, had planned to receive his high school education at Sunny Hills when he was in middle school.
“My dad coaches football here, so this school has always just been a part of my life,” Nick Wilde said.
He said he wanted to join the freshman football team without worrying that he had to be the model athlete.
“I never think of him as my dad on the field,” said the running and defensive back. “I think of him as a coach, and I’m a player who has to work to earn his spot on the field [like all the others].
“He knows me as well as I do, and I can’t say that I’ve felt pressure on the field.”
David Wilde said his son’s coming here has worked out.
“I think our relationship has become better because of football,” he said. “[Nick Wilde] likes to play football, and I like to coach it, so we’ve been able to spend a lot more time together.”
FIRST OF FIVE
English and journalism teacher Tommy Li plans to send all of his five children to Sunny Hills, and the first here is sophomore Hope Li, who enrolled as a freshman in the last school year.
“My dad’s ultimate plan is for all of his kids to take his English and journalism classes,” said Hope Li, whom her father had homeschooled between pre-school and second grade. “It was interesting to be in his class because I got to see his teacher side.”
Because they live in Irvine, about a 30-minute drive depending on freeway traffic, and her father has to drop off her two younger siblings at their middle school first, Hope Li said her father has had to ask her first-period teachers to be more forgiving of her tardies some mornings.
“I can make up at least half an hour of sleep on the way here unless I’m doing homework in the car,” she said.
Another perk is being able to store her lunch in her father’s fridge and heat it up using her dad’s microwave oven.
“I don’t want to eat cold, sometimes frozen food that my mom packed, so during break I use the microwave.” Hope Li said. “By lunch it’s room temperature, but it’s better than cold rice.”
Though Hope Li didn’t have any of her Irvine classmates come here with her, her father — a colleague of English teacher Jennifer Kim — introduced her to Jennifer Kim’s daughter when they took the honors placement test here in eighth grade.
“Getting to know Hannah before school started made me more comfortable to make other friends by myself,” she said. “At first I thought it would be awkward to be friends with someone just because our parents know each other, but it actually worked out really well.
“Going to Link Crew orientation by myself would have been way more awkward otherwise.”
Because all of his children were homeschooled by their father when they were toddlers, Tommy Li feels being able to teach them when they get to high school gives him a chance to reconnect with them again at the academic level.
Before planning to have his eldest child in his freshman and sophomore honors English classes, the teacher consulted with Bordy about how he handled having his children in his Spanish classes.
“I followed his philosophy of introducing my daughter to the whole class early in the semester and explaining to the class that she will not know in advance what any tests or quizzes will look like before they are given,” Tommy Li said. “I then encourage my students to come see me or email me if they feel that I’m favoring my daughter over the other students.”
So far, Hope Li doesn’t feel like she has to be the model student or else bring shame to her father and her family. Like many of her peers, she’s on the path of self-discovery.
“Sometimes I feel pressure from my peers to know all the right answers and get the highest grades, but I’m learning to be myself anyways,” she said. “My parents aren’t stereotypical Asians. They’ll only get concerned if I get a C or something, and even then I’ll tell them what happened. I think my parents just want me to try my best and get enough sleep.”
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Freshman Nathaniel Valenzuela is the last of physical education teacher Jimmy Valenzuela’s four children to attend Sunny Hills.
“All of my children have been in my classes, but I don’t advertise it,” Jimmy Valenzuela said. “This year, it took over half a semester before the kids realized Nathaniel was my son.”
Transitioning into high school was fairly easy for Nathaniel Valenzuela because he had been coming to the campus all his life.
“When I was coaching, [Nathaniel] was here all the time with my wife and the other kids,” Jimmy Valenzuela said. “When he walked into here, it didn’t scare him at all — he grew up here, and this is his place.”
Like Nathaniel Valenzuela, sophomore Victoria Scambray — whose father is district superintendent Scott Scambray — had two older sisters who came here after they moved from Northern California in July 2015.
“[When I first came to Sunny,] I just had some trouble adjusting and not knowing anybody since I came from Brea Junior High, so I didn’t really know anybody,” she said. “But it was easy to make friends here, and I like the environment here, everybody’s really friendly and nice.”
Since she is the youngest in her family, Victoria Scambray’s older siblings were able to also ease her into the transition at Sunny Hills.
“My sister also had a good relationship with the volleyball coach, so I got to know her through that,” the sophomore said.
Her father, Scott Scambray, has nothing but praise for the campus as a parent as well as a superintendent.
“We sent them and Victoria here because it had a good reputation and was recommended that we send our kids to Sunny Hills,” he said. “It’s an excellent learning institution, and I highly recommend it.”
Even though she is the superintendent’s daughter, Victoria Scambray chooses not to make it known to her peers.
“I mean, no one [around me] really knows that I’m the superintendent’s daughter because I keep a low profile,” she said. “Only the teachers know who I am, but that’s it.”
MORE FAMILY TIES IN HIGHER PLACES
Before the November 2018 elections, sophomore Jacob Klatzker did not have anyone in his family connected to Sunny Hills or the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD].
But all that changed when his mother got elected to the FJUHSD school board, representing Area 4, which spans the Fullerton Union High School neighborhood. Lauren Klatzker serves as one of five trustees who will vote on all matters pertaining to the district, including FJUHSD personnel, curriculum and operations issues.
“Even though I’m the school board member’s son, I’m not much different from everyone else,” said Klatzker, who hasn’t had anyone approaching him about that topic. “It’s not such a big deal.
“My mom’s the trustee for another area, so it’s not that big of a deal here. If she was in charge in this area, I mean I guess it would be a bit different, but I don’t get like too much attention for being a school board member’s son.”
His mother had nothing but praise for the campus and what it has to offer all students.
“Sunny Hills has programs like AVID and also has very hard and rigorous classes,” Lauren Klatzker said. “I wanted my son to get the best education he could get.
“We also came due to the fact that Sunny Hills has a very good baseball program that we wanted to be a part of.”
Even though freshman Luke Weinreich’s dad is one of three assistant principals on campus, the student felt nervous and excited about what high school had to offer as opposed to his middle school, Christ Lutheran Brea.
“I didn’t know a lot of people, and I didn’t know what Sunny Hills was going to be like.” Weinreich said. “I thought it was going to be hard, but it’s not.”
The ninth-grader chose Sunny Hills because he liked the school and already had planned it since middle school.
Assistant principal Craig Weinreich said seeing his son at his workplace is great because it is easy for him to check up on him.
“It’s a lot of fun to have him here on campus and see him every single day and be a part of his high school experience,” the administrator said.
While Luke does not bring too much attention of being an administrator’s child to his classmates, he feels that having this position gives him a perk: being able to eat food in the teacher’s lounge whenever he wants.
“Yeah, whenever there’s a birthday [in the office] or something, he just stops by and has some of the things left over in there,” Craig Weinreich said.
FROM HOME SCHOOL TO PUBLIC SCHOOL
Having been homeschooled since kindergarten, freshman Elizabeth Rosenkranz, daughter of English and Theory of Knowledge teacher Scott Rosenkranz, underwent a huge lifestyle change by coming here.
“I had a teacher that I went to twice a week, but most of the time my mom would teach me,” she said. “I would always be with the same 10 kids.”
Now more than halfway through her first year at a public school, Elizabeth Rosenkranz said she likes it more than being homeschooled because of increased opportunities to socializing with her peers and the different classes offered.
“I met a lot of great kids in my classes, so I have way more friends than I used to have,” she said. “I also play shooting guard for girls basketball and am part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club.”
When choosing what high school she would attend, Elizabeth Rosenkranz was given the options of Sunny Hills and Sonora High School. However, she chose Sunny Hills because of the variety of classes offered and basketball.
“I knew that Sonora had a great basketball team, but I also know that their lower level coaches are not as great as ours,” she said. “I chose Sunny because the coaches are really great, especially my coaches, the Chongs.”
Elizabeth Rosenkranz has played all positions for the girls freshman-sophomore basketball team, but she currently plays shooting guard.
“Our school has a really great basketball program that I would totally recommend,” she said.
Due to Elizabeth Rosenkranz’s positive experience at Sunny Hills, she knows that her two younger brothers will attend in the future.
“They’re already excited to come here after hearing about high school from me,” she said. “I think they’ll enjoy it as much as I do.”
Because she is in honors English courses and will most likely not pursue the International Baccalaureate diploma, freshman Elizabeth Rosenkranz will probably not take one of her father Scott Rosenkranz’s classes, as he only teaches college prep English and Theory of Knowledge.
“I don’t think I would want to be in one of his classes,” she said. “He helps me on a lot of my writing assignments, and if he was my teacher, he wouldn’t be able to help me.”
Despite this, she has heard lots of positive things about her father from other students on campus and is not embarrassed to tell them that she is his daughter.
“A lot of other kids tell me that he’s a great teacher,” Elizabeth Rosenkranz said. “When I introduce myself to others, I don’t mind explaining that I’m Mr. Rosenkranz’s daughter.”
Scott Rosenkranz said having his daughter with him on campus did not seem like a major difference because he hardly sees her during school hours.
“It’s kind of like any other parent’s experience dropping their kid off and going to work,” he said. “I just get to do both of those things at the same time.”
WILL EIGHT BECOME NINE OR 10 OR MORE?
Many SH faculty and staff hope their peers who have children coming up in age will send them to their workplace as well.
“Frankly Sunny Hills wasn’t a very fun school to go to back at the time when my older son was going in 2010 or 2011,” David Wilde said. “But that’s changed a lot over the last seven or eight years, where the culture of the school has changed, and the athletics of the school got a lot better.”
Whitten said that the shift in the school culture occurred when he started out as principal five years ago.
“I sat down with the staff and just said, ‘Hey, I just want to hear what you guys are proud of and you would love to change moving forward,’” Whitten said. “And it was interesting the staff said, ‘We want to change the culture of this school to be a fun, exciting place where kids go to high school and feel proud of our high school.’”
The teachers and Whitten worked together to create a school where academics is not the focus of high school.
“[Sunny Hills] had a reputation for just academics at this school, and we wanted to add to it with amazing athletics, amazing school spirit, ASB and Link Crew,” he said.
Whitten also makes it a point to promote the growing number of students who are children of SH faculty or staff or of the district.
“People came to open house and a school board member and a superintendent that I introduced were sitting there with their kids who both attend Sunny Hills,” he said. “I think that the community sees that and go, ‘Wow! All the teachers bring their kids here? The superintendent? The school board member? This must be a great school!’”