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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS: SH Spanish department welcomes former basketball coach as new Spanish teacher

New+Spanish+teacher+Christian+Llamas+teaches+his+third+period+honors+class+how+to+conjugate+the+reflexive+verb+%E2%80%9Cdespertarse%E2%80%9D+in+Room+71+on+Aug.+21.
Noah Lee
New Spanish teacher Christian Llamas teaches his third period honors class how to conjugate the reflexive verb “despertarse” in Room 71 on Aug. 21.

This is the eighth 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.

Students carefully stacked red cups on their desks. 

The cups were separated by index cards and two partners each pulled out a sheet at the same time. If they were successful, the cups stacked into one pile. 

Diverting away from the classic “All-About-Me” questions, this short icebreaker allowed the students to naturally start interacting. 

“I was more focused on building some community in my classroom and wanted the students to feel comfortable with each other,” Llamas said. “I think everyone really enjoyed that because it was something different they hadn’t done before.” 

Following previous Spanish teacher Gene Bordy’s retirement, Llamas now teaches first and second period Spanish 1, as well as third, fifth and sixth period Spanish 3 Honors.

“He has experience and a great knowledge of Spanish,” principal Craig Weinreich said. “He’s worked in our district before, so he’s got familiarity with our students and district.” 

Llamas’ prior experience with student teaching and working at Sonora High School as the assistant varsity basketball coach gave him more familiarity with the district. 

By taking Regional Occupational Program [ROP] child development classes, becoming an instructional assistant and coaching younger children, he explored different teaching opportunities as a student. 

JOURNEYING TO THE HILL 

Llamas said child development classes at Anaheim High School during his sophomore and junior year from 1994-1996 first sparked his interest in the field of education. 

After taking it for the first time during his sophomore year, he took the class again, influenced by his group of friends who had taken the class with him and his interest in being part of the experience of working with children. 

“Being able to work with a kindergarten class was really neat,” Llamas said. “I was very interested in it and I wanted to continue it.” 

When he applied to Fullerton College, he said he enrolled as undecided because he wanted to find his passion before solidifying on a major. 

As a freshman in college, he contacted his sixth-grade teacher, Kat Wallace, to ask if he could help out around the class and tutor her sixth-graders. He had kept in contact with her and reached out to her among all his previous teachers because he felt the closest to her. 

[Her suggestion] pushed me into wanting to get into education.”

— new Spanish teacher Christian Llamas

“I had a really good relationship and experience with her in elementary school and felt comfortable asking her to see if it would be okay for me to come help out during my school breaks,” Llamas said. 

Following Wallace’s suggestion, Llamas applied to be an instructional assistant in the Anaheim district and was accepted, leading him to work in both the district and the classroom. 

“[Her suggestion] pushed me into wanting to get into education,” Llamas said. “I fell in love with the elementary kids and wanted to be part of that community.” 

In his 20s, Llamas additionally worked as a coach for Anaheim Parks and Recreation, after searching for a part time job nearby, where he coached baseball, basketball and soccer. 

There, he met Sonora’s basketball head coach Mike Murphy who offered him an opportunity to coach that he later accepted.

“When he presented that [position] I was excited,” Llamas said. “It was an opportunity that I wanted to pursue.”

Coaching from 2002-2012, he especially enjoyed the Freeway League games.

“The school’s student body would come out and pack the gyms so it was really exciting,” Llamas said.

This experience made Llamas realize he wanted to continue coaching, which led him to change his mind about teaching at an elementary school. 

“I had a lot of fun and knew if I wanted to coach high school basketball, I couldn’t be an elementary school teacher,’” Llamas said.

He then transferred to California State University, Fullerton with a major in Spanish. 

“While attending [Fullerton] College, my professors were big on helping students transfer over and guiding them in terms of selecting majors,” Llamas said. “Additionally, the Spanish language and culture was intriguing to me.”

After earning his credential, he built his experience as a student teacher at Sonora High School and as a substitute teacher in the Fullerton Joint Unified High School District [FJUHSD].

Llamas first became the head coach of the boys’ sophomore basketball team for two years and worked as the boys’ varsity basketball assistant coach for the next six years at the school.

He left Sonora High School in 2012 and found a position as a Spanish teacher and basketball coach at Mater Dei High School in 2014, where he taught for eight years.

“I had a great experience at Mater Dei High School,” Llamas said. “I was part of a great World Languages department that I keep in contact with as we bounce ideas off each other occassionally.”

A couple really stood out to me and the Spanish language and culture was intriguing to me.”

— Llamas

Llamas said his fondest memories of coaching basketball at Mater Dei High School was during the 2018 season. On that team, the three most memorable players went on to play at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University.

“We were Open Division Champions [in 2018],” he said. “That was my favorite team I was able to coach.” 

While at Mater Dei High School, COVID-19 affected his way of teaching and communicating with his students because of the transition into Zoom and online platforms.

“The most challenging part for me was not having the everyday in-person contact and communication with my students,” Llamas said. “Noticing the behavior changes via Zoom and some of my students constantly appearing to be sad or lost bothered me.”

Llamas left Mater Dei High School after teaching 2022-2023 school year’s first semester because he wanted to pursue teaching at a public school.

“Working in a private school, you get a wide variety of students that come from a wide variety of locations,” Llamas said. “I wanted to be closer to the community that I was part of in the past.” 

After applying mid-year, he accepted a teaching position at Esperanza High School where he taught one semester from March to the end of the 2023 school year. He said he only taught one semester because of his arrival time and it was a chance to gain some experience.

This past summer, Llamas said he applied to teach at the FJUHSD and became part of the Lancer family.

“[I decided to apply to the FJUHSD because] it would be an unbelievable opportunity to teach in such a great district,” Llamas said. “I also live in Fullerton so my drive to work would be super short.”

The new teacher said he prepared for his first year at Sunny Hills by thoroughly planning out his first week and coming up with a variety of icebreakers and community building activities that would engage his students.

“I tried to plan fun things because I want my students to look forward to my class,” Llamas said. 

I tried to plan fun things because I want my students to look forward to my class.”

— Llamas

He also said he hopes of possibly coaching basketball at Sunny Hills alongside Coach Ok in the upcoming seasons although it is not confirmed yet. 

“Coach Ok and I have discussed the possibility of coaching together, but it’s probably not working out this season,” Llamas said. “I would love to help him.” 

In addition to teaching Spanish, the instructor said he wants to be someone who looks out for his students. 

“My past students would describe me as someone who’s looking out for my students’ best interest and willing to support them,” Llamas said. 

Joshua Gonzalez, a senior in his third period class, gave his impression on Llamas.

“He jokes around and helps us feel more comfortable in the classroom and gets us to interact with him a lot,” Gonzalez said. “But he also knows when to be serious and to really talk to the class about recurring problems and wants to know what he could do about those problems.”

As his hobby, Llamas enjoys running and working out but hasn’t had much time to do so after his two daughters, aged five and three, were born.

“They’re very active and have lots of energy so as soon as I get home from work, I try to do as much as I can with them because like most parents will say, time flies so enjoy every last minute,” Llamas said. “So that’s what I try to do.” 

As he settles into his position, Llamas said he hopes to contribute to the Sunny Hills community.

“I look forward to meeting everyone and getting to know how Sunny Hills does things,” Llamas said. “I want to get my face out there so students know that I’m 100% committed to them, 100% committed to Sunny Hills.”

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Angelina Jeong, Sports Editor
Junior Angelina Jeong enters her first year on The Accolade staff after learning the fundamentals of journalism in the Journalism 1 class last year. Alongside co-sports editor junior Christine Yoo, she looks forward to publishing more stories for the sports section that will continue the award-winning legacy of The Accolade. Her goal as an editor this year is to improve her writing and layout skills to entice more students into taking an interest in the publication. Outside of The Accolade, Jeong can be found volunteering for her club or going on walks with her dog. 
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