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Friday, June 2, 2017

A Senior Looks Back

by Alex Havrilla

My name is Alex Havrilla. I am a senior who is graduating from Woodland Hills on June 2nd, 2017. I was approached some time ago to make a post. I would have liked to write something sooner, but
this overly-perfectionist mindset I have caused me to reject most ideas I had. Then it hit me: I can use this opportunity to express my immense gratitude towards Woodland Hills for the role it has played in my life. While this isn’t exactly original, I think it is appropriate for me and potentially beneficial for those who may read this.

I’ve been in the Woodland Hills School District from kindergarten onward. I started at Wilkins Primary, graduated to Ben Fairless in 4th grade, and then made the transition to the Academy in 5th grade, from which I entered the high school in 9th grade. During these 13 years, my love and thankfulness for the district has grown tremendously. This is due to a variety of factors, the greatest of which are the Woodland Hills teachers.

I think my parents and I began to appreciate this even in kindergarten, when Mrs. Marino gave me puzzles to do during naptime because I was too fidgety to rest. When, in 3rd grade, Mrs. Gallagher moved me into a group with a couple other 3rd graders to do extra-difficult multiplication problems. I vividly remember sitting on the floor of her classroom and attempting to multiply two 7 digit numbers, and laughing even though I got the answer wrong because I was having such a great time. I remember in 4th grade when Ms. Gratton gave me practice with cross-multiplication of fractions and Mrs. Pearson gave me the opportunity to conduct an independent study of Catal Huyuk, an ancient Sumerian city.

Now I will admit, I am the kind of student who enjoys school and is eager to learn. These last few months have caused within me sorrowful nostalgia. Come June 2nd, I will be one of the most self-conflicted people standing (with some luck with the weather) on the soccer field behind the high school. I recognize that it is important to move on. But the times I have had, and the transformative growth I have experienced at Woodland Hills, make it impossibly difficult to let go.

I recall that in 5th grade Mrs. Morse gave me extra reading to do with books such as Windsurfer because she thought I would enjoy them. (I did, Mrs. Morse). In 6th, 7th, and 8th grade I had the dynamic trio of Mr. Endler, Nash, and Forgie, who put together projects asking us students to write about traveling abroad to a foreign country while analyzing multiple factors including the weather, travel options, finances, hotels, sightseeing, and many other things I am surely forgetting. It was also during this time that my teachers began expressing concern to my mother about my admittedly poor social skills. I was the kind of student who would read during lunch and recess, and who would barely talk beyond answering a question. They approached me on several occasions, asking about me and my life, I guess to see if anything was wrong, and to get me to go out and play with the rest of my class.

It was really in high school where all the opportunities I was presented with exploded into so many directions I simply cannot write about about all of them without taking hours. Ninth grade arrived and I got my first taste of the high school gifted program. Tenth grade gave me the opportunity to take AP Biology with the help of Mr. Booth, Mr. Snyder, and Mrs. Blasi, because I had enjoyed 9th grade biology so much. High school also saw me take full advantage of the AP course selection at Woodland Hills, as well as the many extracurriculars including Marching Band, Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, FBLA, Tennis, Musical, Golf, Peer Tutoring, and so much more. In all of these clubs, I met wonderful people who changed and strengthened my knowledge as an academic, and my character as a person.

Finally, it would be a crime to not discuss the High School Mock Trial program. I participated my freshman and sophomore years after falling in love the first day. I had the opportunity to practice Mock Trial in 4th, 5th, and 7th grade, again thanks to teacher involvement, but I was blown away in 9th because of the level of intensity and complexity required by the club. I credit this atmosphere largely to its two adult sponsors: Jamie Glasser and Kevin McGuire. I could go on and on about the things we did in Mock Trial. These range from the courses on the insanely complicated rules of courtroom objections (particularly the Hearsay rules), to deeply analyzing near hundred-page packets of law and testimony, to logical argumentation, public speaking, and even discussions on morality and the basis of justice and the justice system itself. I owe so much in particular to Mr. Kevin McGuire, who I consider a close friend and extremely influential person in my life.

Of course there were dozens more teachers in Woodland Hills who have changed me for the better. Unfortunately I cannot outline every way I was affected. But realize that I do remember and am forever grateful. If I did not name you, the least I can do is this:

Thank you:
Mrs. Bear, Mrs. Kopko, Mrs. Kummer, Ms. Manny, Mrs. Libel (I still have all the crafts), Ms. Marchi, Mr. Kotts, Dr. Vereen, Mr. Hickman, Mrs. Mann, Mr. Donofrio, Mr. DeIuliis, Mrs. Tabb, Mr. Yeager, Mr. R Rodriguez, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Coleman, Coach Bear, Coach Schuller, Coach Mike, Ms. Balas, Mr. Arnold, Mr. Barnett, Mr. Vranka, Mr. Steinmetz, Mrs. McDonough, Mrs. Nyapas, Mrs. Fisher, Mr. Neff, Mr. Donley, Mr. Kowinski, Ms. Wall, Mrs. Silverman, Mrs. McClinchie, Mr. M Rodrigues, Coach Lersch, Mr. Coles, Mrs. Coles, Mr. Kevin (for Philadelphia in particular), Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Colleen, Mr. Mariani, Mr. Morinello, Mr. Heffner, Mr. Maloney, Mrs. Reese, Ms. Shook, Ms. Nestico, Ms. Tanski, Mrs. Tiboni, Mrs. Priore, Mr. Crone, Ms. Giove, Mrs. Lugar, Mr. Shaw, Ms. Miller, Mr. Hopkins, Dr. Flanders, and Mr. and Mrs. Zollner (as you both already know, words cannot express).

Even after that, it feels as if I have only scratched the surface of the Woodland Hills teachers who helped shape me into the person I am today. I know that there are many teachers I owe whom I can picture as I write this whose names I simply cannot remember. Thank you.

And it is of course not just these teachers that make me so grateful to Woodland Hills. I am greatly thankful to the other staff members, administration, and various people who indirectly make it possible for those named above to directly affect me in such a profound way. So thank you Woodland Hills. Thank you for everything.

Alex Havrilla is a member of the Woodland Hills Class of 2017. He will attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall and intends to major in Mathematics.