High School Welcomes Trio of New Teachers

Trio of New Teachers

Heidi Bruce, Kat Barnard, and Phil Comito / Photo credit: Ray Doss

With the new school year well under way, students have already noticed many things that seem out of the ordinary. This year has brought everything from brand new buildings to new staff. Over the summer, three new teachers were hired to join the strong team at Orcas High. Students may have seen them in class, wandering the halls, or in the first school Spirit Assembly during the teacher dance off. However, many students may still wonder who these teachers are, where they come from, and what they teach. Chances are, most students will end up in a class with one of them. So, who are these new teachers and what brought them to Orcas?

A teacher you may have seen roaming the halls is the new senior advisor, Mr. Comito. At the end of the last school year, the beloved Mrs. Collister decided it was time to pass on the torch and retire after a long run as a teacher on Orcas Island. Mr. Comito has some big shoes to fill, but he doesn’t seem too worried about it, “the school I taught at last had much larger classes,” Comito says, “five periods a day with thirty-five kids per class.” Comito taught AP United States History at his old school, and with so many students per class it made one-on-one time a rare occurrence. However, Comito’s largest class on Orcas has only twenty-two students. This makes it much easier to be the relatable person that all teachers aspire to be.

"Bromito" at work / Image credit: Ray Doss

“Bromito” at work / Photo credit: Ray Doss

The biggest change Mr. Comito has instituted is the new and improved senior curriculum. Comito has made changes to the senior project and paper. He also teaches a new required class for all 12th graders called Current World Issues. The debate based class has already become a favorite for Orcas seniors, and is doing exactly what it was planned to do, “I want to help young adults understand world issues, and help them to develop skills to support their opinions on these topics,” Comito says, “They need to think critically, develop an argument, and support it, all while keeping an open mind.” For someone who decided to become a teacher merely to get summers off, Comito is doing a whole lot for Orcas High, and we are very lucky to have someone dedicated to turning teenagers into well educated young adults who are ready to tackle the big world.

Another new person to join the team is Ms. Bruce, but you might call her “Profa” instead. Ms. Bruce is the school’s new Spanish teacher, tackling the first, second, third, and fourth year Spanish classes. Bruce is not only new to Orcas High School, but she is also new to the teaching world. “This is my first full job as a teacher, and it has definitely proven to be a steep learning curve,” Bruce says. This, though, should be no challenge to the new teacher. Both her parents were public school teachers in Alaska, so she understands the importance of an educationally centered society. Her parents also raised her trilingual and she is fluent in German, Spanish, and English. She hopes to apply similar learning techniques to her classes using immersion with students.

Bruce hopes students will get more than just language skills out of her classes. She hopes students will gain an appreciation for what a language can do in your life, and for the countries various dialects come from. With a strong background in world issues studies, she plans on working these subjects into her curriculum. Hopefully this will help students not only understand the language, but also to understand the country that the language comes from.

Profa Bruce has been receiving praise from students already for the job she has been doing. “I think Profa Bruce is a great Spanish teacher and has helped me understand the language so much better through immersion,” says one of her students. While this may be her first time in the classroom, Profa Bruce has definitely proven herself to be a strong and passionate educator.

Finally, due to recent events, our school has a new long term substitute teaching science. Miss Barnard, or Miss Kat as she is known around the school, is very excited by this new opportunity. She is currently finishing her Doctorate in Environmental Science and Resources, so she definitely has a strong background in science, “I love opening peoples’ eyes to what is around them,” she said, “there is a need for educators to help others understand the world.”

Miss Kat has a strong love for nature. In her free time she enjoys playing disk golf, Dungeons and Dragons, and hiking Twin Lakes in Moran State Park. She also has a love for cooking and eating fresh, and believes good nutrition is very important. Her favorite part so far about teaching at Orcas High has been the students along with the supportive staff and administration. She has been very impressed by Orcas students’ ability to juggle sports, clubs, school, and everything else island teens do. Miss Kat hopes these students will also learn a lot from her classes. She hopes they will learn to identify problems, and learn to find solutions. Hopefully the strong desire to fix what is wrong with the world, the reason she became a teacher, will rub off on her excited new students.

The high school is getting an array of talents and skills with this new batch of teachers. Though they may be very different in their styles and subjects, they all have one thing in common. When asked what they have enjoyed most about teaching on Orcas, every one of them says that they have felt incredibly welcomed by the supportive staff and the nice and polite student body. All the new teachers showed admiration for the kind and helpful folks at Orcas High, and the community, staff, and students appreciate everything these teachers are doing for the school.
Thank you to all the new teachers and here’s to a great school year!