New ‘high energy’ social science teacher also helps out as coach in Lancers’ football program

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Asaph Li

New social science teacher Matthew Acosta greets his fifth period United States History class Nov. 4.

As a Whittier High School student, Matthew Acosta often received recognition from teachers for his natural affinity for aiding his peers with their academic endeavors. Though without an official tutoring position, he found his place on campus as a resource for struggling fellow students. 

Now a social science teacher for Sunny Hills, Acosta strives to attain such accolades not from his educators, but his students. 

“I am naturally good at helping people as much as possible,” Acosta said. “One of my math teachers said, ‘Hey Matthew, I noticed you help a lot of people out in class; maybe you should look into teaching.’”

For three years, Acosta pursued associate’s degrees in political science and social and behavioral science at East Los Angeles Community College following his high school graduation in 2014. 

From 2017-2019, he attended California State University, Long Beach, to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science; he then moved on and graduated Whittier College with a master’s degree in education and a teaching credential in social science. 

“I was really good at math in middle school, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized it wasn’t for me,” Acosta said. “In high school, I was interested in history as well, so when I got to college I realized that maybe I shouldn’t go the math route and should go the history route.” 

That path took him to Villa Park High School, where he began his career teaching sophomores as a social science teacher.

“Teaching [at Villa Park High School] was a really crazy time for me because it was my first year teaching, and I had been hired in the middle of the school year,” Acosta said. “I had to leave because of declining registration numbers because my full-time was going down to a part-time spot.” 

He then applied for a position as an SH Advanced Placement [AP] social science instructor on Edjoin; however, principal Craig Weinreich called to inform him the position had gone to another candidate. Two weeks later, Weinreich called with an opening for an instructor for regular social science classes.  

“[The second call] was really a sigh of relief,” Acosta said. “I applied to other places, and they hadn’t gotten back to me yet, so it’s kind of like waiting to see if you got accepted to your dream college; they might accept me or they might not.”

Acosta teaches freshman and sophomore World History for periods one and four, and U.S. History with juniors for periods two, three and five. Upon getting hired here, he said he contacted football head coach David Wilde with an inquiry for a football coach opening. 

“Last year, I taught at Villa Park, and it was only sophomores,” he said. “I’ve never taught freshmen before, but I’ve coached them [in football]. It’s a little different, but it’s enjoyable.”

Acosta’s involvement with football began in 2010 as a high school freshman. For four years at Whittier High School, he played for the varsity team and extended his playing time by joining the East Los Angeles College and California State University, Long Beach, football teams as a receiver. 

“I absolutely love football, and I think coaching kind of stems from me being able to help people out naturally,” Acosta said. “I think football provides kids with a lot of learning opportunities for life, so at Sunny Hills, obviously the first thing I did was get in touch with coach Wilde.”

Weinreich views Acosta as an asset to the SH staff and applauds Acosta for his involvement within and outside of the classroom.

“He seems to be a very high energy person, somebody who’s got a lot of just positivity, just a lot of energy,” Weinreich said. “The fact that he wants to be involved on campus and be involved in a lot of things that our kids are doing, I think it’s going to be helpful [for the school].”

The fact that he wants to be involved on campus and be involved in a lot of things that our kids are doing, I think it’s going to be helpful [for the school].”

— principal Craig Weinreich

Junior Matthew Barboza has Acosta for fifth period and appreciates his day-to-day attitude.

“He’s always in a good mood when I go to class so it puts me in a good mood,” Barboza said. “He is just full of energy every day and even when he is not full of energy, he still has a great attitude.”

Throughout the first week of school, Acosta said he implemented team building and “get-to-know-you” activities into his class agenda with the hopes of building a refuge for his students.

“The activities are something I’ve never done before at school,” Barboza said. “It was something different, but I liked it.” 

Also in Acosta’s fifth period, junior Eden Buell said she sees her teacher as a friendly, passionate individual and respects the time he puts in to get to know his students.

“The first week of school, he met with every student individually just to get a feel for them and talk to them, and we sat and talked about my sport, water polo,” Buell said. “He helps his students who have busy schedules and understands how to work their agenda; he cares about us.” 

During his time at Sunny Hills, Acosta aims to become a dependable figure for his students. 

“I hope to contribute to Sunny Hills that idea that there is a teacher who genuinely cares about their students,” he said. “I know there are already teachers here who do that, but I would love to make that even stronger.”