Teacher Assistant Program

Teacher Assistant Program

Some of SHA's brightest high school students participate in the Teacher Assistant Program.
Some of SHA’s brightest high school students participate in the Teacher Assistant Program.

As an opportunity to foster leadership and strengthen a sense of responsibility, South Hills Academy offers a Teacher Assistant Program to exceptional students. This program serves as a great resource for them to not only earn elective credits, but also to gain insight into a teacher’s perspective and learn about different pedagogical methods. In addition, students enrolled in the program receive the honor to pass on their knowledge, experience, and passion to younger students. 

We place these teacher assistants in different classrooms based on their interests and schedules. They work side by side with teachers to provide support in the classrooms. In some cases, they even assist front office staff with a variety of administrative tasks. Below we interview some students about their TA experiences so far:

Joshua Lardizabal – 12th Grade – TA for Second Grade Math

Joshua Lardizabal helps elementary students with their math assignments.

Why did you choose to be an Elementary Math TA?

Math is my strongest subject, so it is nice to help kids who are struggling. When I was younger, I never had a TA in my classes, but I see the benefit of having someone there providing extra help in establishing a strong foundation for a subject. 

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

I help Ms. Hammond ensure the class runs smoothly. I help students understand the questions and make sure they are well-behaved in class. When they are struggling with their worksheets, I explain the concepts again and guide them through the problems. 

What have you learned so far as a TA?

Through the TA program, I now understand the responsibility it takes to be a teacher, and the time and effort it takes to make sure things run smoothly. I always know the mental toughness it requires to lead a class, but I was surprised to learn of the physical effort being a teacher also requires to make sure class is organized.

I enjoy being a TA because it’s fun. It reminds me of when I was little. This position taught me to be a better person and be more patient with people because everyone learns at a different pace. I like to meet and help people. I know for younger kids, it can be pretty daunting to be in school learning a challenging subject, so I want to offer my assistance in any way I can to make their lives easier. This is an opportunity for me to give back and contribute to the school.

You are a Legacy Student at SHA, how has the school changed throughout your time here?

I have been here since first grade and I have seen the school changed for the better. Programs, especially academics, on campus have expanded more in-depth, and the student body and faculty have also become more diverse and included.

How do you plan on spending your senior year?

I want to just enjoy my senior year the best way possible after spending almost a whole year on online classes. I want to celebrate the fact that I get to be on campus with my friends and take it one step at a time. I am pretty excited about team-building activities for the student body or field trips where we get to learn about something in class in a fun and engaging way.

What are your plans for the future?

Although I am good with Math, I want to challenge myself further by studying something different after graduation. I am interested in majoring in Psychology, Film & Theatre, or Photojournalism. I hope to apply to UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton, or Cal State Long Beach.

Claudia Colorado – 12th Grade – TA for 7th Grade Advanced Spanish

Claudia Colorado assists Mrs. Szybisty in her Spanish class.

Why did you choose to be a Middle School Spanish TA?

I am an international student from El Salvador, so I wanted to share my knowledge about the Spanish language and culture. A lot of students in the Spanish class have parents and grandparents who are from Mexico or other Spanish-speaking countries, so I think it is important for the students to be able to communicate with them and to not forget the language or where they come from.

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

When Mrs. Szybisty assigns work during class, I help read stories to the students. Because I am a native Spanish speaker, I focus on improving students’ pronunciations. I also teach them different vocabulary words depending on the topic students are learning. 

My goal is to help students hold conversations in Spanish with their family. I hope to teach them how to communicate in the ways they want to. I want to be a good resource for the students and I look forward to teaching them more about local expressions and El Salvadorian culture. Later in the semester, I might even make El Salvadorian pupusa with the class in the future. 

What have you learned so far as a TA?

Back in Guatemala where I used to go to school, there were assistants in my classes who helped pass out papers or collect homework, but they didn’t do any teaching. Being a TA at SHA gives me more ideas about how teachers conduct their classes. I am really impressed with Mrs. Szybisty’s ability to keep students entertained. It requires creativity and patience for a teacher to keep students engaged and focused.

For a lesson about touch and taste, Mrs. Szybisty brought different objects and snacks for students to feel and eat in order to describe those sensations. The way Mrs. Szybisty developed her class was really cool.

How do you plan on spending your senior year?

I want to join clubs on campus and organize activities for the senior class, like painting murals on campus. I am also interested in joining the local basketball club and signing up for ukulele classes.

What are your plans for the future?

I am still not sure which school I want to attend after graduation, but I know I want to study something in the field of humanities.

Michael Wang – 11th Grade – TA for Middle School Art

Michael Wang ensures Ms. Shasta’s art class runs smoothly.

Why did you choose to be a Middle School Art TA?

At first I was assigned to the front office as an office assistant, but I wanted an opportunity to work with younger students because I like to help people, and coming from a family background of architecture, I have a strong foundation in art, so I chose to help out in Ms. Shasta’s middle school art classes.

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

I paint with the students and demonstrate how to do certain techniques. Sometimes after Ms. Shasta finishes her demonstration, I explain the steps again because students don’t always remember everything. I also show them how they can improve their drawings by providing suggestions. If Ms. Shasta needs assistance, I prepare materials and clean up the supplies after students are done. I help control the room when it gets too loud. If there is an international student who is struggling to understand the assignment, I translate for him.

What have you learned so far as a TA?

I’ve always known being a teacher is not an easy job; there are a lot of responsibilities like preparing classroom materials and grading. Working with Ms. Shasta teaches me how to be patient with kids and how to explain difficult lessons in ways younger students can better understand. 

It’s very fulfilling being in a classroom setting where I get to help students. I feel like I am making a difference when I see students’ work improve. It gives me a sense of accomplishment knowing that they now have a better understanding of the course and the assignment. By being in Ms. Shasta’s class, I am learning new art techniques too.

How do you plan on spending your time at SHA?

I love being a TA, so if my schedule allows me to next semester, I want to TA again for Ms. Shasta. Being a TA gives me something to do and I love interacting with the kids. When I am helping them, I am learning something new as well.

After a long day at school, I like to relax in my dorm room and hang out with my friends. I enjoy meeting new people and exploring the area.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I am focusing on getting good grades and studying for the TOEFL Exam, which is a requirement for international students applying for colleges. I am not sure where I want to go yet, but I have thought about studying architecture at UC Irvine.

Arina Rybka – 10th Grade – TA for 4th Grade Social Studies & English

Arina Rybka provides extra support for elementary students.

Why did you choose to be an Elementary TA?

I needed something to fill my schedule and the Teacher Assistant Program gave me an opportunity to earn credits. 

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

I provide academic support for elementary students in social studies and English classes. For certain students, I give them extra attention to support their academics and help them focus. With my help, these students are more engaged with their classes.

What have you learned so far as a TA?

When I first learned about the TA program, the concept was very new to me. Back home in Russia, teacher assistants don’t exist. Students need to find help on their own if they are struggling. 

Here it’s different. I get to help students with their schoolwork and help teachers organize their classrooms. I enjoy that sense of accomplishment when students finish their work. I hope I am making a difference by helping them.

What other extracurricular activities are you involved in on campus?

I am an AP student and a competitive dancer. I am in the school’s dance team and student council. I tutor math after school and teach dance in the summer. I am also an office assistant. 

What are your plans for the future?

It’s my dream to dance professionally, so I work hard to practice and improve my ability. I want to study fine arts or performing arts at Stanford University.

Tyler Concepcion – 9th Grade – Office Admin

As a TA for the front office, Tyler Concepcion plays an important role in helping the front office organize SHA’s annual Trunk or Treat event.

Why did you choose to be a TA for the front office?

My classes were moved around so I needed something to fill my schedule. I thought being an assistant in the front office was the best way to help people.

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

Some of my duties and responsibilities include organizing office cabinets, folding PE clothes, decorating the office, making posters, cleaning out the chapel, assisting the marketing department, setting up for Trunk or Treat, and more.

My proudest accomplishment was reconstructing and redesigning the art room over the summer.

What have you learned so far as a TA?

I learned a little more about how schools are run, where different school departments are located, and what each department does. Running a school is harder than I thought, but I can tell this is a positive environment because everyone seems happy while working together. 

What other extracurricular activities are you involved in?

Outside of school, I take regular boxing classes and help out my parents in their restaurant.

How do you plan on spending your time at SHA?

My goal is to graduate early and spend some time planning my life. I want to experience more while continuing to stay with my parents. 

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I am not entirely sure, I want to either study to become a real estate agent or get a business degree then help run my parents’ business. 

Melody Zhou- 11th Grade – TA for Preschool Music

Melody Zhou shares her love for music with SHA’s preschool students.

Why did you choose to be a preschool TA?

When I first learned of the TA program, I was very interested. In the beginning, I wanted to be in the front office to learn about working in the professional setting, but the preschool director, Ms. Clayton, and the head of schools, Mr. Lacoste, recommended that I utilize my music skills by being a TA in the preschool classrooms.

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

During class time, it is sometimes hard for the preschool teacher to take care of everyone, so I make sure students are doing what they are supposed to. If they are not following instructions, I guide them and show them what to do. I also help monitor the children during their recess time to make sure they are safe.

Also, I decorate bulletin boards with the preschool teachers and teach students about music instruments and basic musical terms. I showed them different percussion instruments and we played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star together.

What have you learned so far as a TA?

As a teacher assistant, I learned about patience and responsibility. Although it was fun and easy to talk to the kids, it took time and effort to set up lessons and take charge in a class. Being a preschool teacher is harder than I thought.

What other extracurricular activities are you involved in?

I play multiple instruments (piano, drums, and the “Chinese lute”, pipa) and am heavily involved in music competitions. I have won first place in both local and international competitions and also received the state honor. 

At SHA, I am part of the student council. Outside of SHA, I am part of the band ensemble at Mt. San Antonio College. In my free time, I do a lot of volunteering at a pharmacy and the local library. At the library, I organize art events and make art with kids.  

How do you plan on spending your time at SHA?

I have been a student at SHA since 5th grade. The educational opportunities have gotten better and the quality of teachers have improved as well. Over the years, the student body has gotten more diverse and SHA also implements school policies like no cellphones that make the overall school experience greater. 

These days, I am happy to be with my friends. I am especially looking forward to our high school overnight field trips where we get to explore different places. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am fortunate to have a family who supports me in anything I do as long as I do my best. My parents used to say that as long as I am passionate about something, I won’t feel tired. 

I want to get a degree in something that can be useful in the long run; something I can pursue later in my career. But most importantly, my main goal is to study music in college, probably somewhere like UCLA or NYU. I also want to travel and visit the East Coast.

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