by Sawyer Cohen, News Reporter, & Bella Ishanyan, News Editor
photos by Bella Ishanyan
After 16 years working at South, biology and environmental science teacher Mita Bhattacharya is leaving South. She said that she not only wants to accompany her husband, who recently got a job in Maine, but she also wants to set aside time to care for her elderly relatives, a commitment she felt would conflict with the lack of flexibility that being a high school teacher comes with.
“Should a medical emergency arise, I want to be able to be there, and having a school job will be tough,” she said.
Bhattacharya said that leaving South is bittersweet because she didn’t get to connect with her students this year, particularly given the circumstances of the pandemic.
“[I would] have loved to see the seniors, who I had as students in my class last year, more often,” she said. “I have very good junior classes, and I would have loved to spend more time with them and gotten to know them better.”
Senior Amy Huang said that she recognizes Bhattacharya’s efforts and is grateful for her consistent caring attitude towards her students.
“During the pandemic, she was so sweet. She kept on trying to connect with people and always [said], ‘if you need to talk afterwards, I’m here,’” she said.
Huang said that she thoroughly enjoyed Bhattacharya’s classes, and will always reserve a special place in her heart for Bhattacharya pre-pandemic biology experiments.
“The interactive part made bio really fun,” she said. “It was a slow class so it was kind of hard to get through, especially since I had her a lot. She was always one of my last classes, but it was fun to do experiments.”
Bhattacharya is unsure of her exact plans for the future, but she said that she is looking forward to being active in her new community.
“I don’t know if I’ll be going back to teaching at a college or if I might look at working with conservation organizations,” she said. “[I’ll] definitely [be] doing some volunteer work and seeing where I can be useful, but certainly if I do any kind of work, it will be either education-related or conservation-related.”
Despite the disappointments this year has brought, Bhattacharya said that it hasn’t taken away from the appreciation for her time at South.
“It’s been a wonderful 16 years at [the] high school, and I have enjoyed all the years of students that I’ve had,” she said. “There’ve been wonderful colleagues, mentors, people in the science department and in school.”
Statistics and math teacher Felisa Honeyman has taught at South for 34 years and is retiring from teaching and moving on to new experiences.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time,” she said. “I’m ready to have a new adventure.”
Honeyman, who was a graphic designer for a year, said she became a math teacher to lead a more exciting career.
“I was really eager to have a job where I could interact with lots of different people on a regular basis, and things wouldn’t be predictable,” she said. “I got that through teaching.”
Her time at South has left a lasting impression on her students, senior Maggie Xu said.
“I had a good experience in her class,” she said. “Mrs. Honeyman just has everything really well planned out. You can tell she’s really smart, and she’s always available for people who need help.”
Like Xu, Honeyman’s teaching style also strongly benefited senior Sabrina Ishanyan, who said she initially struggled in her class.
“Although I struggled really hard with it, I was that much more prepared for when I took calculus this year,” she said. “A lot of the concepts were very familiar to me. I could easily pick it up, and she did a really good job explaining and drilling it.”
Xu said that she appreciates all that Honeyman has done and is disappointed to see her go.
“She’s definitely [a] genuine teacher … You can tell she really likes teaching and just being around kids because she is so involved in the school, committed to speech and all these classes,” she said. “It sucks that South is losing her because she is one of the best teachers at South.”
This summer, Honeyman and her husband are planning to take a road trip.
“We’re driving out to the national parks and we’re going to do some camping and probably spend about a month exploring parts of the country we’ve never explored before,” she said.
Honeyman said her plans after summer, however, remain largely ambiguous.
“I’m still young and eager enough to continue doing something. I just need to figure out what that will be,” she said.
Ultimately though, she said she is gratified with the work that she has done.
“Looking back, I’m happy with what I’ve done,” she said. “It’s been a good adventure. It’s been interesting, sometimes fun and often inspiring.”
Chemistry teacher Patrick McFarland will be retiring and moving to San Francisco this year after teaching for 17 years at South. McFarland said that he has taken away a lot from his time at South and hopes students can say the same.
“I’ve worked very, very hard over a long period of time. I really did my best, and hopefully, I’ve done some good things for some students,” he said.
Close colleague and chemistry teacher Alan Crosby said that he appreciates McFarland’s everlasting friendship and is grateful for having known him. Having received unmatched support from McFarland, Crosby said that he will always be thankful for McFarland’s presence during his early years of teaching.
“The first year when Crosby was my mentor teacher, I loved what he told me. [He said that] contrary to what I may have heard, my goal at the end of the year is to want to come back, and that’s it. Nothing else matters,” he said. “He said if you want to come back, you’ve had a successful year, because honestly, your first year is utter chaos. It’s challenging, and it’s hard.”
Crosby said that McFarland is well-known throughout the science department for his skills.
“One thing about Mr. McFarland that everyone who’s in chemistry can agree on, is that he has an ensemble of demonstrations. He’s the demo master,” he said.
After their time together, Crosby said that he is both sad and excited to see McFarland start a new chapter of his life.
“Over the years, sometimes we’ve taught the same course, and we’ve worked really closely and tightly together. Other times, we’re not teaching the same courses, and I barely saw him other than at standard meetings,” he said. “When Pat McFarland told me that he will be leaving the school, it just felt like the end of an era.”
McFarland said that while he is uncertain what the future holds, he hopes to let his passion for education guide him.
“It’s not necessarily that I’m leaving teaching entirely for sure, because I’m not sure what I’m going to do [in San Francisco],” he said. “I may pick up a class and teach out there — I may work on some curriculum materials.”
Though the transition will be unique, McFarland said that he is optimistic of what retirement will bring him.
“I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do because I don’t have to work,” he said. “But I’ve got things that I love to do, so if I’m working on something and getting better, I’m happy.”