Alumna Ginestet-Araki returns to school after 12 years

September 9, 2019 — by Kaasha Minocha and Anna Novoselov

Twelve years ago, Lisa Ginestet-Araki (then known as Lisa Ruddy) sat at the school’s desks taking tests and participating in classroom discussions as a student. Now, she stands in front of her own geometry and precalculus classes as a teacher, explaining math concepts and screencasting problems from her iPad to the Apple TV while students quickly take notes.

After graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in economics, she worked as a substitute teacher for elementary and middle school students in the Moreland School District, where she discovered her passion for teaching. Since math had always come naturally to her, and she had experience tutoring the subject, she decided to pursue it as a teaching career. 

Ginestet-Araki said that she loves math because it helped her develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

“Even though I may not use everything I learned in my math classes in real life, the skills I developed in my math classes have proved invaluable to me throughout college and as an adult,” she said.

Before being hired at Saratoga High, she taught for six years at James Logan High School in Union City. But she always wanted to return to SHS because of the connection she felt to the school and the closer commute.

“I wanted to return to help other students have the same positive experience I had and to help them balance extracurriculars and academics,” Ginestet-Araki said. “I can relate to the students because I’ve been in their seats before.”

As a student, Ginestet-Araki participated in Homecoming Quad Day dances and Link Crew. She also played on the school’s volleyball, basketball and softball teams.

“Being a part of sports made my experience positive because I made a lot of friends and had a good support system in my teammates and coaches,” she said. “It also made me feel more connected to SHS and gave me school spirit and pride.”

While Ginestet-Araki challenged herself with AP and honors courses, she also balanced her schedule with less rigorous courses that allowed her to explore her creativity, such as art and digital photography. 

She said that she had many great teachers who helped make her experience at Saratoga High positive and stimulating. For instance, Michele Drouin, her former Calculus teacher who now teaches at Los Gatos, inspired Ginestet-Araki to pursue math in college.

“Ms. Drouin was organized and held her students to high expectations,” Ginestet-Araki said. “She helped us build up our math stamina, so when we encountered tricky problems, we would keep trying until we figured it out.”

Ginestet-Araki similarly hopes to encourage her students to work through difficult math concepts and not get discouraged when solving challenging problems.

An average day in her class involves lecture notes as well as partner and group work for more application based problems. She wants students to practice explaining their thought processes using academic language. She tries to incorporate technology into her lessons and maintains a website and YouTube channel to post class lectures.

Sophomore Maha Qureshi, who is in Ginestet-Araki’s geometry class, said that she appreciates how students can go back and review lessons through her videos. She likes that Ginestet-Araki is “very neat, organized and thorough with her notes.”

“We cover everything in class,” Qureshi said. “Not only do we do our notes, but we also do our homework and review Algebra 1 so that we’re prepared for Algebra 2.”

Sophomore Nikhil Kapasi said that Ginestet-Araki is “very enthusiastic, positive and excited to teach,” adding that he appreciates how she adapts her teaching speed to each class.

“I really like the way that Ms. Araki lets homework questions be answered first by other students as it saves time, reinforces the concepts and also allows for a more collaborative environment,” he said. 

While Ginestet-Araki seeks to help her students feel fully comfortable with the material, she believes that the most important part of each day is ensuring that students leave the class having gained a skill or new knowledge. She loves seeing the same students each day and watching them improve over the year. 

So far, Ginestet-Araki has enjoyed being part of the Saratoga High faculty due to the support and kindness she has received from students and other staff members. She hopes to reciprocate this positivity and dedication.

“I try my best to motivate my students by example,” Ginestet-Araki said. “I hope that coming to class with a positive attitude and being enthusiastic about what I’m teaching will rub off on them.”

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