Welcome to Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood

New math teacher fills in midsemester for geometry instructor who abruptly left

Newly+hired+math+teacher+David+Rogers+lectures+students+on+an+angle+of+elevation+problem+displayed+on+the+board+on+April+14.+

Asaph Li

Newly hired math teacher David Rogers lectures students on an angle of elevation problem displayed on the board on April 14.

Nathan Lee

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood / A beautiful day for a neighbor.

This familiar tune resurfaced among many of new math teacher David Rogers’s current and former students.

“Everywhere I’ve been, in almost all my classes, ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ has been brought up,” Rogers said. “… It’s a cool title.”

However, unlike the popular 1966 children’s PBS TV series named after Fred Rogers that explored early childhood themes, Sunny Hills’ newest addition to staff is dedicated to spreading the importance of understanding specifically math concepts among his future students. 

“I like math because I’m learning about how things originated and the ‘whys’ to things,” said David Rogers, who’s not related to the title character of that long-running TV show. “I don’t want people to just be memorizing things without knowing where it came from and why things are done the way they are done.”

The new math teacher said he recognized his flair for STEM subjects during his four years at Brea Olinda High School, where he pursued an accelerated path that allowed him to complete up to Advanced Placement [AP] Calculus BC and AP Physics.

In 2014, Rogers graduated from Brea Olinda and attended Purdue University to pursue his initial goal of a degree in mechanical engineering, though he later decided that it was not the right path for him.

I don’t want people to just be memorizing things without knowing where it came from and why things are done the way they are done.”

— math teacher David Rogers

I think a lot of people in the engineering program had a really strong passion for programming and came in with robot building experience, and we jumped right into it,” said the math teacher, who was hired to replace Min Ho Han when he left in March 2022. “You have to be really motivated, but I didn’t feel that way about it — I really struggled and decided that’s not the way I want to go.” 

After making this self-discovery, he said he went back to focusing on the skill sets he found in high school as he transferred to California State University, Fullerton [CSUF], in 2017 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in math. 

“Cal State helped grow my appreciation for mathematics as a subject matter,” Rogers said.  “I did feel a little burned out after getting the degree, but looking at it now, I really enjoyed my classes and learned a lot.

“I wavered a lot throughout my years at CSUF about my decision to become a teacher, but eventually, the love of math and the support from CSUF helped me make the decision to stick with it.”

After graduating from CSUF in 2020, he decided to apply his talent fresh out of college by joining Fullerton Union High School [FUHS] in 2021 as a student teacher covering Algebra 2 and Honors Geometry classes. 

Rogers gives credit to his mentors at FUHS for introducing engaging teaching methods that he implements in his classes and providing first-hand experience on the same material he is currently teaching.

“It’s a lot easier the second time to manage a classroom now that I have a better understanding after learning from those guys,” he said.

After a year spent at FUHS, the instructor said he came across an open teaching position at Sunny Hills on the education job site, Edjoin, and decided to apply regardless of his doubts.

“It was not an easy decision to apply for the position, but after giving it some thought, I thought it would be a good experience for me even if I did not get the job,” Rogers said.

From all the possibilities of Rogers’ future career location, he said he decided to teach at Sunny Hills because of his familiarity with  the Fullerton Joint Union High School District.

“I wanted to focus on a job inside the district that I [had originally] taught in,” Rogers said. “I really like the students at Fullerton, and there are different types of students, which makes me like this whole district in general.” 

Upon receiving his application, assistant principal Melissa Stinson said his strong references secured him a spot on the staff to teach Algebra 2 and Geometry.

“He came with great recommendations from FUHS staff,” Stinson said. “It is often a difficult process when searching for qualified teaching candidates in the middle of the school year, so we felt very fortunate that Mr. Rogers applied for the position.”

As a first-year instructor coming with three months left in the second semester, Rogers said he encountered some challenges becoming familiar with the classroom and students.

“It’s so late in the semester that they don’t want to open up again,” he said. “I’d like to change that, but I think it’s getting better.”

I really like the students at Fullerton, and there are different types of students, which makes me like this whole district in general.”

— math teacher David Rogers

Junior Melissa Miranda, who is in Rogers’ first period , said she appreciates how Rogers makes the students feel at ease.

Mr. Rogers is more vocal about any problems for the class workwise,” Miranda said. “Mr. Han was good at that, too, but I feel like more students are more open and more comfortable talking to Mr. Rogers because he makes you feel like it’s OK to talk to him, and he’s not going to be getting upset with you.” 

The junior said she also appreciates Rogers’ efforts to get to know each individual student. 

“Every Friday we have an activity called, ‘Circle,’ and it’s in the morning, and we get one or two to three questions going around getting to know each other. and we also do a lot of partner work,” Miranda said. 

Rogers said he also enjoys brightening up the classroom dynamic by introducing mini-games throughout his lessons like “trashketball” in which students throw paper balls into baskets that are placed in different locations around the classroom.

“I implemented trashketball because I saw it work well in my mentor teacher’s classroom and believed it would be a fun way to review,” he said. “I added the extra credit portion so that students would have more motivation to do well.”

Rogers said he often integrates group and partner activities into his classroom agenda to lift the students’ spirits.

“I try to keep people engaged by my mood, and I also pair the students into partners so that it’s not just individual work all the time, but rather working in a group setting,” he said. “It helps to make the classroom dynamic more well-rounded and makes sure that students aren’t stuck with something they don’t want to do.”

As a new school year approaches, Rogers said he looks forward to growing as an educator.

“As a teacher, I really want to be satisfied every day with how I teach my students,” he said. “It takes a lot for me to be satisfied with how I teach. It’s difficult to quantify it, but I just want to do better every day, become a better teacher and try to do as best of a job as I can.”