The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

ONE VIAJE TO THE NEXT: From Spain, Mexico, Guatemala to Peru, new Spanish teacher settles on the Hills

New+Spanish+teacher+Natasha+Tricoche+gives+two+thumbs+up+while+asking+how+the+welcome+back+assembly+was+in+Spanish+to+her+sixth+period+Spanish+1+class+on+Friday%2C+Aug.18%2C+in+Room+72.+
Asaph Li
New Spanish teacher Natasha Tricoche gives two thumbs up while asking how the welcome back assembly was in Spanish to her sixth period Spanish 1 class on Friday, Aug.18, in Room 72.

This is the fourth in a series of profiles on new, full-time instructors hired at Sunny Hills during or before the fall semester of the 2023-2024 school year. Expect more profiles to be posted soon.

In 2006, while attending Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa as a Spanish major, Natasha Tricoche said she had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain later that summer after her freshman year for six weeks.

The housing and other commodities during the study were provided through her school tuition, however, the flight to and back as well as any extra spending money came out of Tricoche’s own pocket.

Although the teacher had traveled overseas before, studying in Spain was exciting, she said. 

“It was just a different lifestyle,” the Sunny Hills Class of 2003 alumna said. “It was so fun to take the bus and the subway to go see new things then see a castle right there [and] just to see the history of [Spain] was so fun.”

Although that meant being thousands of miles away from her family back in San Diego, California, Tricoche grabbed at the chance her school handed her. 

Tricoche said she looked forward to the independence from her closely knit Latina family while also using the time to improve her Spanish. 

“In my culture, family is important and at that young age I used to want to be with my family all the time,” Tricoche said. “So, finally being independent and out in the world alone was a newly exciting experience.”

Since that trip, the instructor has traveled from 2008-2011 to Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. 

Such travels played a huge part in forging her passion for teaching and bringing a wealth of experiences as she returns to Sunny Hills as its new Spanish teacher; she replaces former Spanish instructor Luis Gomez, teaching Spanish levels 1, 2 and 3. 

“I’m super excited to teach my Spanish classes and share my language and culture with students,” she said.

STUDYING, TRAVELING, DISCOVERING

Born in San Diego, California, Tricoche said she was not new to her relatives’ small pokes here and there on her rusty Spanish. 

“My dad’s family is Puerto Rican [and] my mom’s family is Mexican, so I had a lot of connections to the culture and families speaking Spanish, and I felt like my Spanish was not good,” the alumna said. “It made me think, ‘Well, I want to know how to read and write and sound more educated.’”

My dad’s family is Puerto Rican, [and] my mom’s family is Mexican, so I had a lot of connections to the culture and families speaking Spanish, and I felt like my Spanish was not good.”

— Spanish teacher Natasha Tricoche

Trioche moved to Fullerton in 5th grade, attending Sunset Lane Elementary School then D. Russell Parks Junior High School. 

In college, Trioche said she grew a passion for her native language.  

“I took Spanish classes and that’s when it became more exciting because I was learning at a different pace,” she said. “I also love Spanish because as I improved, it helped me connect with my culture and family more.”

After graduating in 2008, Tricoche continued to seek a higher level of education and attended San Diego State University [SDSU] with a major in Spanish and a minor in linguistics, where she worked for her bachelor of arts degree. 

“[Community college] wasn’t a high enough education level for me — I had plans for more, ” she said. “In my case, I’m the first person in the family to go to college, so for me personally, that was very important to go all the way.”

Tricoche graduated from SDSU in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Spanish language with distinction and a minor in linguistics, alongside a teach English as a second language/teach English as a foreign language certificate — an international credential that allowed her to begin teaching English at schools. 

However, her education journey didn’t end there. Tricoche enrolled in Sacramento State University the same year and graduated with her master’s in Spanish language and linguistics in 2012. 

“My greatest accomplishment is my master’s,” she said. “I know some people will never achieve that in their life, so to me, that’s like my child.”

After that study abroad summer program through Orange Coast, Tricoche said she continued to seek out more opportunities to do the same at the other universities she enrolled in. For one full school year as a junior in 2008, she attended the international program in Querétaro, Mexico, SDSU’s sister school El Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey. 

And in 2010, she attended the travel study master’s degree program in Antigua, Guatemala for six weeks in the summer, where she studied Spanish literature, Latin American literature, linguistics and culture. The next year she attended the same program in Arequipa, Peru. 

Similarly to the study abroad in Spain with Orange Coast College, the housing expenses and other simple commodities were paid while the flights and personal spending money had to be paid for. 

“The trip to Mexico had the biggest impact because almost every person was a Spanish tutor, which got me excited about Spanish and teaching because I saw their own excitement,” Tricoche said. “These experiences really solidified that I wanted to become a Spanish teacher.”

The trip to Mexico had the biggest impact because almost every person was a Spanish tutor, which got me excited about Spanish and teaching because I saw their own excitement.”

— Tricoche

WORK BEFORE SUNNY HILLS 

Tricoche’s first teaching job was at San Diego City College, where she taught English as a foreign or second language for eight years from 2015-2023. Although she taught all levels of Spanish, her classes mostly consisted of international students.

“I really loved that I got to work with adult students from all over the world,” she said. “It really touched me that they wanted to learn English, and it was so cool because they had new lives in this country as refugees or immigrants.”

Knowing how it feels to be an international student herself, Tricoche felt she could relate to her students. 

“They teach you so many things about their culture, like you have students from Vietnam, China, Cuba,” she said. “You learn about the world through talking to those people, [and] even though I didn’t travel, they taught me a lot about life.”

In 2019, she received her preliminary single subject teaching credential in Spanish from National University in San Diego. 

“I always knew I liked working with young people, and I enjoyed teaching college students but working at the college didn’t give me a lot of security because I could be teaching one semester and not having enough students to teach the next,” Trioche said. “So, I wanted to move to teaching high schoolers because there’s more stability in that for a career.” 

With her Spanish teaching credential, she moved on from instructing English to Spanish 1, 2, 3 and Spanish for Spanish Speakers for two years at the charter school Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego. 

Despite this change, Tricoche still continued to teach at San Diego City College. After COVID-19, she started teaching Level 1 English for non-native speakers through Zoom from 2022 until July 2023. 

During this time, she also worked as a substitute teacher for the Fullerton Joint Union High School District. Tricoche ended up taking over for SH’s special education teacher Elizabeth Munsell, who was on maternity leave in September 2022. 

The Spanish teacher said this experience at Sunny Hills sparked her interest in teaching high school students. 

“I felt the excitement of the campus — the students getting ready for the dance and the football game,” Tricoche said. “It made me want to teach in person again because I’m kind of isolated on the computer, and I felt the energy of the campus and the camaraderie.”

It made me want to teach in person again, because I’m kind of isolated on the computer, and I felt the energy of the campus and the camaraderie.”

— Tricoche

JAM SKATING

When she’s not teaching in the classroom, Tricoche said she enjoys doing something she calls, “jam skating.”

“I’m an artistic roller skater, so I dance and move in my skates,” she said. “I participate in line dances and also do choreographed  dances.” 

When COVID 19 hit, Tricoche sought a novel source of exercise and entertainment. 

“I was one of those people who changed their whole life during COVID,” she said. “I love working out, but all the gyms were closed, so I had to find something else.” 

This sparked her to begin skating and taking lessons with a coach at the Fountain Valley Skating Center.

Alongside her personal lessons, Tricoche said she also runs an informal community roller skating group once a month at a park in Buena Park, where she coaches participants and helps them work on their skating skills. 

“I got addicted and began to love the activity because, like with any sport, you grow your skill set,” the teacher said. “I began to learn new tricks and moves that kept it exciting.” 

LIFE BACK ON THE HILL

As a former Lancer, Tricoche took Spanish classes 1, 2 and 3 during her first three years of high school. 

Rather than having a focus on Spanish early on, her mind was preoccupied with theater and the Conservatory of the Fine Arts [COFA]; Tricoche was in both programs for all four years, participated in all theater productions and was the drama club president on campus. 

“I did think about majoring in theater when I was in high school, but it didn’t seem like a stable career option to me,” she said. 

After some encouragement from other staff members while being a substitute on campus, Tricoche applied to be a Spanish teacher for the district in May 2023.

Tricoche said she was surprised to learn that she would return to Sunny Hills.

“I was so excited because being a Lancer and also having [been a substitute] occasionally, I would hear everyone say they love when Lancers were their teachers,” she said. “I saw teachers I remembered from when I was a student here and seeing people come back made me feel like I want to be a part of that again.” 

Principal Craig Weinreich shares a similar sentiment. 

“The fact that she has a history here is huge, and she’s [substituted] in our district before so we know what she’s capable of and how well she connects with our students,” Weinreich said. “We were excited that she actually was able to put in and apply for the full-time job.”

Although she is no longer as involved in performing arts, the new Spanish teacher said her COFA experiences have helped mold her into who she is today. 

“I’m very expressive, and I think I use what I learned in the COFA program to act out vocabulary words and speak clearly while I teach,” she said.

However, despite its influence, Tricoche said she isn’t interested in helping out with any theater productions as of right now. 

“Theater is such a big time commitment, and I want to be a more established teacher here at Sunny Hills and find my place here before taking on such a big commitment,” the Spanish teacher said. “Once I get more experience being a Spanish teacher here I can consider helping out with clubs and programs like that, but to me teaching Spanish is the most important.” 

Freshman Allen Channel noticed her teacher’s teaching qualities while in her first period Spanish 1 class. 

“Some things she does while teaching that are helpful is sounding out each word until we all can pronounce and understand it properly,” Channel said. “Ms. Tricoche is impacting my Spanish very well, and I feel like I’m learning quickly.” 

Tricoche said she openly shares her past with Sunny Hills and being a Lancer. 

I love this school, and I want to share with my students the excitement I felt when I was a student here”

— Tricoche

“I love this school, and I want to share with my students the excitement I felt when I was a student here,” she said.

“You can just see that she has a lot of energy by the way she talks and carries herself, creating a more exciting classroom,” said sophomore Laurel Henderson, who has Tricoche as her second period Spanish 2 teacher. “I think since she was also a student here, it makes it a little easier to connect with her.”

According to her students, the Spanish teacher’s enthusiasm and personality expresses itself through the sticker covered podium that stands in the front of her classroom.

Tricoche said she found the podium lying in the faculty workroom and decided to adopt it into her classroom, unknowingly creating a leeway in growing closer with her students. 

“My students started giving me stickers to place on the podium, so I could share them with my other classes,” she said. “At first I thought having the podium was really embarrassing, but they told me it made me appear more friendly and matched my personality — it allowed me to find a way to connect with my students.” 

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Accolade
$1000
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Sunny Hills High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Christine Yoo, Sports Editor
Stepping into her first year on The Accolade staff, junior Christine Yoo looks forward to diving deeper into her responsibilities as the co-sports editor. She hopes to sharpen her journalistic skills and broaden her knowledge of the niche aspects of sports writing. When not typing out stories, Yoo can be seen involving herself in different clubs and volunteer organizations. In her free time, she enjoys listening to true crime, finding new music and going out with her friends.
Donate to The Accolade
$1000
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Accolade Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *