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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

TEACHER LEISURE: Who was that lady punching the board in half with her hand during the International Week assembly?

Sue Kang
Wearing her second-degree black belt and a dobok, English teacher Liese Wellmeyer Garcia demonstrates her taekwondo skills by separating a board in two with her right hand during the Friday, Feb. 16, International Food Fair double second period assembly in the gym.

“Teacher Leisure” explores Sunny Hills teachers’ hobbies outside of school. What impacts have they made not only on students, but also outside of their classroom?

When English teacher Liese Wellmeyer Garcia got hired to teach at Sunny Hills in the 2019-2020 school year, she said she worked here part time for two periods before traveling to Sonora High School to finish her day.

Wellmeyer Garcia said she was assigned to use Room 25 in her first two years teaching college prep underclassmen and English learners; then in the 2021-2022 school year, she started her day at Sonora before teaching three periods of English 1 at Sunny Hills in English Department chairman Scott Rosenkranz’s classroom, which was then located in Room 185.

It wasn’t until she was hired to teach full time here for the 2022-2023 school year that school officials gave the instructor her own space, Room 16. 

One of the items the English and English Language Development instructor said she put up to decorate in her classroom ended up being her 14-by-22-inch second-degree black belt certificate in taekwondo dated Oct. 28, 2018. The plaque featuring the accomplishment now hangs on the left side of Room 16. 

“I wanted to put it up in my classroom because I teach English learners, and most of them are Korean,” she said. “When I brought it to school to show it to them, they liked it, so I was like, ‘I might as well put it here.’”

It also just happened that her new digs is next to Room 15, where Korean teacher Esther Lee teaches, with a small office space in between.

And in 2022, Lee said she spotted that certificate as well.

“I knew that she did taekwondo, but I realized that she was a black belt when I saw the certificate in her classroom,” the world language instructor said. “I was really surprised and proud of her because getting a black belt is not easy.”

After learning about Garcia’s achievement, Lee said she asked her colleague if she wanted to demonstrate her taekwondo skills in front of students and staff at the next International Food Fair Week assembly.

“I wanted her to be our special host because she is a teacher and a special woman who does taekwondo,” said the Korean teacher, who also advises the Korean Culture Club. “I was really proud of her because it is an honor for a non-Korean teacher to do a Korean martial art because it shows that she is respecting the Korean culture.” 

Wellmeyer Garcia said she appreciated Lee’s offer and looked forward to participating in the assembly to get back into the sport.

“I was pretty excited when [Lee] asked me,” the English teacher said. “It had been a while since I trained, and so, of course, I went back to my studio to put in a couple of hours because I was very much out of shape for that kind of activity.”

English teacher Liese Wellmeyer Garcia (center) stands with her family at the Team Kwon Taekwondo Center in 2016 after receiving her second-degree black belt. Her son, Zach, also earned the same belt level. (Image used with permission from Liese Wellmeyer Garcia)


Her son, herself and her fraternal twin daughters.

Wellmeyer Garcia followed her children’s footsteps by participating in taekwondo after watching their classes and ultimately achieved a second-degree black belt in 2018.

Out of the nine black belt degrees able to be earned, Garcia and her son got to the second. 

“I started because I first enrolled my son, and it looked like a lot of fun,” Garcia said. “I began classes and had a great master, who was very inspirational, and it became a family activity.”

The journey to a black belt started in 2012 after enrolling her then-6-year-old son in the Team Kwon Taekwondo Center program in Brea. 

“Like most boys, he was active and had an interest in boy stuff, like fighting and all the action he saw through superhero movies,” she said. “He was just interested in participating in taekwondo because of all that.”

Wellmeyer Garcia said the pair occasionally practiced together, depending on their schedules, managing to go to the studio at least five times a week.

In 2016, the mother and her son earned their first-degree black belts and, two years later, achieved their second-degree black belts, Wellmeyer Garcia said. The same year, her twin daughters received their first-degree black belts at 8 years old.

“It was a lot of work,” the English teacher said. “The lower belts [were] pretty easy, but once it got to the black belt testing, we had to run three miles, so a lot of it was outside training to get that endurance.”

She said the three miles were geared toward testing endurance and testing the physical capability of those becoming black belts.

After receiving her second-degree black belt, Wellmeyer Garica said she decided not to continue practicing to devote her time to her children and her job as a teacher at Sunny Hills. Nonetheless, she said that taekwondo taught her many things about herself, which she is grateful for.

“I learned that if you try your hardest, you can do almost anything you want and that it is never too late to do anything,” the instructor said.

After her accomplishment, she said she trained 2- to 7-year-olds at the same studio in 2019 after the Team Kwon Taekwondo Center director had approached her about the opportunity. 

Wellmeyer Garcia said she took this up as a volunteer activity but stopped after becoming a part-time teacher at Sunny Hills.

“Being an instructor reminded me how much I loved doing taekwondo, so I was training the little munchkins,” she said.


Along with Wellmeyer Garcia, the Korean Culture Club also invited a couple of other teachers like science instructor Andrew Gartner to the Friday, Feb. 16, International Week assembly in the gym, where they were tasked with breaking some boards with their bare hands. 

The English instructor said she was not nervous to break them since she has many years of experience, recalling her time working with toddlers in Brea. 

“Those boards are so flimsy,” Wellmeyer Garcia said. “When the little kids had their first tests, and they couldn’t break the boards, as the instructors, we would just break it for them.”  

Korean Culture Club students who performed alongside Wellmeyer Garcia at the assembly said her performance pleasantly surprised them as it is rare for older women to participate in the martial art.

“I thought it was great that she decided to perform,” said senior Regina Noriega, who has a third-degree black belt. “Not to be sexist, but not a lot of girls do taekwondo, so I thought it was great for a woman to be doing it.”

Second-degree black belt junior Jeremiah Sung appreciated how approachable Garcia was during rehearsals, even though they only practiced together a couple of times before the show.  

“[Wellmeyer Garcia] was very pleasant and is a good person overall,” said Sung, who has been training in taekwondo for 12 years. “It was really easy to talk to her, and she is very outgoing and energetic.”

Sophomore Kenneth Lee said her encouragement positively impacted the performance of the accompanying students who hold black belts.

“Before we went to perform, she was hyping us up and hyping herself up,” said Kenneth Lee, also a second-degree black belt. “It was very funny and nice to see.”

Although he was not a part of the assembly performance, her son, SH senior Zach Garcia, said he enjoyed working with his mom during their taekwondo sessions when they were training to get their black belts together.

“It was very motivational,” Garcia said. “She kept pushing me to go to all of the classes so that I could keep achieving what I wanted to.”

Liese Wellmeyer Garcia said she enjoyed getting back into taekwondo after four years and hopes to perform again.

“It was amazing, especially hearing everyone cheer,” she said. “I really did enjoy it, and I will definitely do it again if I’m asked.”

In the meantime, Wellmeyer Garcia said she does not plan on advancing her black belt status but continues to immerse herself in other hobbies that interest her as a mom and a teacher.

“For physical activity, I do a lot of hiking, and I lift weights,” she said. “I have three children, and they keep me pretty busy, but I also like to read and do your typical mom stuff.”

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Aashna Dialani
Aashna Dialani, Assistant Business Manager
Sophomore Aashna Dialani spent her freshman year in the Journalism 1 class and looks forward to starting the new school year as the assistant business manager of The Accolade. Aside from being a part of the award-winning staff, Dialani is also a part of the swim team. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and watching Bollywood movies with her parents.
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    Christine WellmeyerJun 7, 2024 at 3:00 pm