MAP teachers Hemmerich and Muñoz to leave SHS

May 27, 2023 — by Anamika Anand
Photo by Atrey Desai
Hemmerich helps a group of students edit a project. 
For career and fit reasons, both teachers will be continuing their teaching careers elsewhere.

As the school year comes to an end, the Media Arts Program is saying goodbye to two teachers: longtime MAP, Digital Animation and Photography teacher Alex Hemmerich and MAP and Ceramics teacher Theresa Muñoz. 

Moving forward, Hemmerich will be teaching traditional and digital arts at La Entrada Middle School in Menlo Park, while Muñoz has been offered positions at other school districts closer to home — Palo Alto, Fremont, and Maynard Academy — and is deciding between positions. 

Hemmerich will teach at Menlo Park middle school 

Hemmerich, who began teaching at SHS seven years ago, has since become integral within MAP. He was heavily inspired to become an educator by his independent study teacher in high school, whom he described as kind, empathetic and immensely passionate about teaching. 

“Upon graduating, I immediately knew I had to become an educator,” Hemerich said. “If I could be a fraction of what he was and meant to me for another student, it would make all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.” 

Hemmerich said he has become a better educator during his time at the school, learning a lot from the creativity of his MAP colleagues especially. He has enjoyed teaching each subject for its own reasons. 

“I loved introducing conceptual projects in photography, analyzing morphs and motion smears in animation and watching my MAP students collaborate on interdisciplinary projects,” he said. 

Hemmerich has made fun memories with his colleagues and students over the years and even has multiple tattoos inspired by students, one being a llama inside a pyramid because a student thought “illuminati” was spelled “illamanati.” 

However, Hemmerich noted one downside to teaching at the school was how the academic environment puts excessive pressure on students. 

“While it’s been wonderful to teach in such an academically rigorous environment, it’s proven to be challenging at times when it comes to grading,” Hemmerich said. “I’ve had countless students over the years care more about the letter grade they receive than the content they’ve produced or knowledge they’ve attained.” 

Next year, Hemmerich will be teaching traditional and digital arts at La Entrada Middle School in Menlo Park. He also hopes to introduce filmmaking and graphic design classes for students there. 

MAP junior Rishab Melkote praised Hemmerich as being both skilled and helpful in his teaching and emphasized Hemmerich’s approachability and willingness to help any student who needed it. 

“He’s achieved the perfect balance between genuinely helpful and extremely entertaining,” Melkote said. “On top of that, you can tell he’s really passionate about what he teaches. His disposition and energy has made the school a much better place to exist in.” 

Muñoz seeks a school that is a better fit

This year, Muñoz, who was new to the school this year, taught two Ceramics classes and two Media Arts classes at the junior level. The fall semester got off to a challenging start when Muñoz caught COVID-19 and faced difficulties with using Canvas and applications like Premiere Pro for Media Arts. 

By the spring semester, however, Muñoz had settled into the school and its systems and was happy with the projects students were able to create in both Media Arts and Ceramics. 

Muñoz overall had a good experience teaching at SHS, happy with the students’ work and community. Though Muñoz was not heavily involved in the Adobe applications aspect of Media Arts, Muñoz particularly enjoyed the community aspect of MAP and watching students bring their ideas to life in films such as the American Story project. 

Comparing the two different classes, Muñoz liked teaching Ceramics more than Media Arts because of the freedom to plan the curriculum and the way students dove into their pieces and incorporated personal aspects into them. 

“Their work was excellent,” Muñoz said. “In Ceramics, students sometimes made pieces that have a deep personal meaning, and I am honored that they felt safe enough to do that work here at school.” 

In the future, Muñoz will continue to focus on teaching ceramics, sculpture and other kinds of hands-on art and possibly also Media Arts. 

“I have been blown away by the creativity, ingenuity, camaraderie, kindness and work ethic of my students,” Muñoz said. “I did my best to build a safe and creative class atmosphere, inspire students, communicate the curriculum and teach well.” 

Tags: MAP, teachers
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