Social Studies Department Chair Jon Resendez Takes Over Old Friend and Mentor’s UCI Class

The+influence+Bruce+Baron+had+as+a+mentor+and+teacher+to+Resendez+has+trickled+down+to+Resendez%E2%80%99s+students%2C+whether+in+high+school+or+as+student+teachers.

Photo Courtesy of Jon Resendez

The influence Bruce Baron had as a mentor and teacher to Resendez has trickled down to Resendez’s students, whether in high school or as student teachers.

Maya Sabbaghian, Managing Editor

When social studies department chair Jon Resendez learned that his mentor, friend and University of California, Irvine professor Bruce Baron was struggling with cancer, he began substituting his course on social studies instructional strategies, which he would permanently take over on Jan. 14. 

Baron passed away about two weeks later. Before he left the position, he believed he could make it through the year under treatment, asking Resendez to sub for him periodically at first.

“I think Bruce thought I should [take over the class] because I have had a wide variety of experiences in education, as not just a classroom teacher,” Resendez said. “He thought that I would have a lot to share, so I am very grateful to him for believing in me. We were also very aligned philosophically in terms of how and why social studies should be taught.” 

Baron’s impact resonates through Portola High, with over half of the social studies teachers having been mentored by Baron, including Resendez. In the district, the impact is even larger, with dozens of other social studies teachers having been taught by Baron. 

“It’s weird to say after doing Portola, but [taking this position] has been the most intimidating thing I have ever done in my career,” Resendez said. “I already knew how great Bruce Baron was, but I keep hearing stories about the way he connected with people and the impact he had on their teaching. The shadow gets longer, but I’m a growth mindset kind of person. If I see something that I can do to make an impact on this profession and on students, I will do it. While the task is intimidating, taking over for a legend, I don’t expect to be a legend. I don’t expect to be Bruce Baron, but I am going to do the best I can and learn a lot in the process. I think they are going to learn things from me that they couldn’t learn from Bruce.” 

While the task is intimidating, taking over for a legend, I don’t expect to be a legend. I don’t expect to be Bruce Baron, but I am going to do the best I can and learn a lot in the process. I think they are going to learn things from me that they couldn’t learn from Bruce.”

— Jon Resendez

Resendez’s primary role is, in essence, mentoring student teachers, who then will go off to impact the lives of many other students – a ripple effect of influence. 

“What I found in mentorship in general is that one of the reasons you want to be a mentor is not just to help the person you are being a mentor for, but to help yourself, because you learn a lot about yourself and what you do and value because you pass on what you value,” Resendez said. “[Lecturing] hasn’t changed the way I approach the classroom dramatically, but it has changed the way I think about the classroom dramatically.”

Resendez’s position as a lecturer officially ends in June, but he believes his impact on his students will trickle down to their own students in the future. 

“In this position you never really stop. That’s one of the great things about Bruce Baron is that he never stopped supporting his teachers,” Resendez said. “Once they were done with the program, he kept in touch with them. They would contact him; he would advocate for them.”