Tomales graduate returns to teach

08/17/2017

A Tomales High School graduate is returning to her alma mater this fall to teach Spanish, helping to round out the school’s language program. 

Talyha Romo, an Olema native who graduated in 2011, will be working alongside one of her inspirations—Spanish teacher Nuria Pont. 

It was the influence of Ms. Pont and Gilda Obrador, another former teacher of hers at Tomales, that led Ms. Romo to dream of empowering her own
students. 

“I just wanted to be like them,” she said. “The passion both of these women exuded… If you can touch one student, that student will be so energetic and will want to follow your footsteps.” 

Principal Adam Jennings said the school has been developing its Spanish program over the last five years, with one “pathway” of classes designed for students who come from Spanish-speaking households and another for first-time Spanish speakers. 

The two language tracks converge during the fourth year, for AP Spanish. Ms. Romo will both lead the track for non-Spanish speakers and teach English language development courses for students new to English. 

“Spanish is the only world language that we teach, but since we’re such a small school, we can really dive deep into a language that we think is important,” Mr. Jennings said. 

About seven years ago, when she was a junior at Tomales, some of Ms. Romo’s favorite teachers had been pink-slipped due to budget cuts. She was a student representative to the school district’s board of trustees at the time, and remembers a particular meeting when teachers were being considered for dismissal. 

“At a small school, [teachers] wear so many hats. I remember thinking how can you do that to us as students?” she said. “Before, I had wanted to be an astronomer and work for NASA. It was one of those moments when you wake up and realize this is what I’m passionate about.” 

While at Tomales, Ms. Romo was a member of the 10,000 Degrees and Shoreline mentorship programs, which help guide first-generation college students through college. 

She took an accelerated credential program at Dominican University, working at Toby’s Coffee Bar and Osteria Stellina when she was a student teacher and graduating with a degree in liberal studies. 

Ms. Romo was teaching fourth grade at Short Elementary School in San Rafael earlier this year when her former teachers at Tomales nudged her to apply for the opening. 

She said she’s eagerly awaiting the first day of school on Tuesday, Aug. 22, and that she’ll incorporate some of the strategies she’s utilized in her previous classrooms. 

“We give them a topic and a few key details and they have to go and do more extensive research and talk it out with the group. It’s a lot of negotiating, collaborating and creating,” she said. 

She went on, “I think the students need to be engaged. I feel like part of that gets lost as they get older, but I think that’s what makes school fun and learning fun.”