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Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

Math Teacher Samantha Zimmerle Stands Out in the ‘Equation’ as IUSD Teacher of Promise

Math+teacher+Samantha+Zimmerle+celebrates+with+her+family.+%E2%80%9CMy+dad+is+a+teacher%2C+so+I+always+saw+him+just+being+so+in+love+with+his+job%2C%E2%80%9D+Zimmerle+said.+%E2%80%9CSo+just+seeing+him+love+that+and+me+being+good+at+math+it+was+kind+of+just+always+where+I+was+going+to+go.%E2%80%9D
Courtesy of Amy Paulsen
Math teacher Samantha Zimmerle celebrates with her family. “My dad is a teacher, so I always saw him just being so in love with his job,” Zimmerle said. “So just seeing him love that and me being good at math it was kind of just always where I was going to go.”

Math teacher Samantha Zimmerle received the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) high school Teacher of Promise award on Jan. 17, recognizing her dedication to teaching and demonstration of potential for the school. IUSD board members, Portola High staff and Zimmerle’s family surprised her in class and showed support as IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker presented the award.

“I had known that I was nominated, but you always think you’re not necessarily going to win,” Zimmerle said. “So seeing this whole thing come in and then everybody, I had the feeling like, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I won this thing,’ and so it was a very surreal experience. I was just so amazed, and I think the most heartfelt part for me was seeing my whole family there.”

To win the award, teachers in their first and second years at an IUSD campus must first be nominated by their peers, then selected by school administrators and finally chosen at the district level.

“She’s just honestly really grounded, humbling, reflective, which I think is a super important part of being a teacher,” math department chair Shelley Godett said. “She just wants to be better and always learn. I think some teachers that might be new to teaching, they might not feel comfortable asking for help, but she’s genuinely a good person where she just wants to learn and is humble enough to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t working. Can you give me some advice?’”

In addition to teaching Math III, Zimmerle led the development of the Math I AB/CD course for the 2023-24 school year, according to IUSD.org. The course offers double block periods of math, enhancing both the accessibility and students’ understanding of the curriculum. Taking on such projects that foster the teacher-student connection are among the qualities that make Zimmerle successful on campus, according to Godett.

“She’s helped me personally for math,” student of Zimmerle and sophomore Camden Everett said. “I’ve been struggling with some problems, and I’ll go up to her, and she’ll explain it slowly. If I’m not getting it, she’ll still take her time to help me understand it. Outside of school, I’ll just be talking to her about some things, and she’ll help me out. Give me advice or just say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m here for you,’ and it is helpful.”

Zimmerle said that her teaching philosophy is largely guided by her desire to make sure that all of her students feel safe and heard, hoping that they remember both mathematic concepts and how her classroom environment felt.

“As a first-year teacher I feel like you’re just trying to make your mark on the community and this award kind of shows me that I’ve already made a big mark, so I’m really, really grateful for it,” Zimmerle said. “I’m very grateful for the award, and I feel very blessed that it’s a community effort, not just me.”

Outside of the classroom, Zimmerle said that she hopes to continue supporting as many students as she can as a Freshman Cheer Coach, Mock Trial Co-Adviser and Learning Lab instructor.

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About the Contributors
Tyler Kim, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Tyler Kim is an Editor-in-Chief for his third and final year writing for the Portola Pilot. Besides the production's monthly spreadsheet, you'll be sure to find in his tabs a seemingly random Wikipedia page filled with purple links, far too many podcast subscriptions on Spotify and numerous second-draft comments where he advises writers that their diction may not be the mot juste. If you wish to pique his interest mention a Wes Anderson film, Aaron Sorkin show, Pax Romana or the New Yorker crossword (unless it's a Monday).
Ruhi Samudra, Sports Editor
Ruhi Samudra is the Sports Editor for her second year on the Portola Pilot. She’s looking forward to being her best social butterfly self this year and getting to know all sorts of people on campus. When she’s not counting the days until she can cover a game again (yay sports!), you can find her obsessing over her purple dinosaur, inhaling all of the cereal-scented candles at Target, or investing her entire life into memoirs just to avoid accepting her own bewilderment.
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