Welcome to Cleveland!

12 new staff members call Cleveland home this year

Clarion photo Dylan Chappell
Bea Lake, new government teacher, helping students.

Along with a brand new year, Cleveland has many new staff in the classrooms working with students. Six teachers and six support staff have been added, and here are their stories and introductions.

Selma Craft: Spanish

New teacher- Selma Craft
Teaching Spanish (Clarion photo Emma Bass & Lucy Core)

Selma Craft teaches Spanish 3-4, and IB HL Spanish 9-10. She fuels her lessons with her passion for education and a sense of community. She also appreciates the diversity at Cleveland, having previously taught at Jesuit.

“One of the biggest changes is that I feel like the student body at Cleveland is very diverse, and that is really wonderful. That’s a change I was looking for. It’s not as diverse as I would love for a school to be, but it’s nonetheless very diverse,” said Craft.

Community is also something Craft appreciates about teaching at Cleveland.

“My favorite thing is that I’m teaching kids from Southeast. It’s my neighborhood community, and I am happy to be able to teach Spanish to students that are really coming from all sorts of backgrounds, and that feels really rewarding, and I’m excited about that,” said Craft.

Craft, while new to Cleveland, is a veteran teacher with a lot of experience who has always been passionate about learning and education.

“I had been teaching at a different school for 15 years, and it was just kind of time in my career to try something different. I really believe in public education, and I’m a product of public education, and so it was important for me that when I made that change, that it’d be at a school that academically is challenging. I’m excited about the IB program at Cleveland, and I’m also really excited to teach students in my own neighborhood community,” Craft said.

Relating to students through her own experiences helps her in the classroom today.

“I was very, very studious and nervous, and always trying to really learn a lot. Not everything was easy for me, but I really worked hard, and I went to a very rigorous high school,” she said.

– Julia Vogel

Bradley Blocker: Health

New Teacher- Brad Blocker
10th grade Health 2 (Clarion photo Emma Bass & Lucy Core)

Bradley Blocker didn’t start his professional life as a teacher, but his experiences prior to becoming a teacher have helped him adapt to this career choice.

“I was a firefighter for eight years; that was right out of college,” said Blocker, who teaches health and the new ninth grade inquiry class. “I got into firefighting, and thought that was going to be everything I did for the rest of my life.”

Blocker, who also coached sports and taught prior to coming to Cleveland, loved the camaraderie of the fire crew, saying it was like his second family. He found these experiences helpful in his current teaching role, which also includes being an assistant coach on the varsity football team.

“There’s a lot more than is obvious. I mean, just being able to have solid relationships with the people you work with, to, you know, being prepared for something that you’re not expecting, or that you do expect. And there’s so much. Dealing with trauma, dealing with somebody else’s trauma, you know, being able to come to terms with it yourself and helping somebody else as well. It’s a lot,” he said.

Blocker’s high school experience was not ideal, and he uses that experience to relate to students in similar situations.

“I was lost. I was very lost. I had a really rough go of it my freshman year from the get go,” Blocker said, citing a feeling that he was far behind other students, and without a strong support system. “But at the same time, [I] had a lot of goals that I wanted to accomplish,” he said. “High school was not my best time, but I also have a lot of really good memories from it. So I felt like it shaped me to who I am today and made me stronger in a lot of ways, too, because I did have those challenges, and I still wanted to do something with my life. And I did,” Blocker said.

Additionally, Blocker pointed out his admiration for the community.

“We’re all in the same place. But we all have very different stories. I see that with the students, for sure. Very vast in the lives that have been lived before coming here, and I think that’s something you see with the teachers, too. I think it’s kind of beautiful,” he said.

–Julia Vogel

Jessica Sawyer: Language Arts and Leadership

Leadership and Language Arts teacher Jessica Sawyer. (Clarion photo Minying Zhen)

What were you like in high school?
“I was a punk rocker. I spent a lot of time going to concerts. My senior quote was ‘I dreamed all day of rock and roll’ from Social Distortion. I did all right in school. My GPA was 3.46. I had dyslexia, so I struggled with languages.”

Why did you get into education?
“I had a teacher named Mr. Lewis who told me I should be an English teacher and I laughed about it at the time. I was a freshman at PSU and I was studying architecture, but I realized he was right and I changed my major to education. Then I went to Lewis and Clark graduate school and it felt right, and I liked the group of students around me. I decided I wanted to be the teacher I never had, one who understood kids who had a hard time with writing.”

Why did you come to Cleveland?
“In 2005 I was a student teacher at Winterhaven middle school and I had an amazing time teaching class. One of the students in the class that I taught became a Cleveland student who was also a punk rocker. I related to her and the rest of the class so much that when I looked for teaching jobs, Cleveland High School was always in my mind. I taught in many different places, once in California and then I taught in Portland public schools. Now this is my first year teaching at Cleveland.”

What’s your biggest challenge teaching at Cleveland this year?
“Compared to where I came from, this year has been pretty great. I can’t think of any major challenges right now.”

What’s your favorite tattoo?
“I have so many that I always like the one I just got the most, so my favorite right now is this new rose tattoo on my elbow, and my husband’s a tattoo artist sooo … .”

–Alex Montalban

Gabriel Brown: Language Arts

What were you like in high school?
I was middle of the road I think. I was pretty goofy, I did improv comedy and I didn’t try the hardest except when teachers pushed me hard. I liked learning, but I didn’t feel that I was smart until I got to college where I got to explore the things I wanted to do. I did a lot of extracurriculars too.

Why did you get into education?
I did an internship in college that I really enjoyed, but before that I didn’t know what to do at all. I changed my major five times. I even originally thought I wanted to become a marine biologist, but I liked working with students and I liked working with people, I liked that it had purpose. I liked group work and the presentation aspect of it. I liked working one-on-one with students and watching them grow. And of course I love English and helping people love it as much as I do. I really didn’t know I loved teaching until I tried it. College helped me explore those opportunities.

Why did you come to Cleveland?
I moved to Portland with my partner who works at OHSU and we moved here for their training. I wanted to work at a public school and I liked how Cleveland had IB. I liked the global part of it and it made it seem bigger. I just thought it was a great place to teach.

What’s your biggest challenge teaching at Cleveland this year?
Attendance. People struggle to come to class. I think a lot of students struggle with motivation and sickness. It’s hard to catch students up and think it’s hard on the students as well. I think they got used to online school and Canvas, but they have to come to class everyday.

What’s your favorite book?
“Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck. It doesn’t have much of a plot and it’s only just 130 pages or so, but I think it’s an awesome, short little book.

–Alex Montalban

Tod Grobey: German

Tod Grobey, Cleveland’s new German teacher. (Clarion photo Minying Zhen)

Tod Grobey teaches all levels of German at Cleveland this year. In his own high school he was involved in music and theater, with very vivid memories of his individual experience.

“I think that contributes a lot to how I approach high school in general, as a teacher in the opposite role of a student,” Grobey said.

After college, he held other jobs, but none left him completely fulfilled. His interest in languages, specifically his studies in German and Spanish, fueled his desire to go back to grad school and become a teacher — an idea he had always considered.

“It’s one of the best choices I made for myself because I love my job,” said Grobey.

Since then, Grobey has been teaching German and Spanish, sharing with students his love for learning and speaking languages, in Portland.

“I see myself as a teacher of Portland citizens — Portland students. That’s my community,” he said.

At Cleveland, he can not only teach under PPS but also aid students part of the International Baccalaureate program — a big reason he was intrigued about teaching here.
Grobey thinks that it is important to have an “international mindset,” because it creates community, “builds bridges across cultures,” and benefits everyone as humans.

Since then, his biggest challenge has been adjusting to differences throughout Cleveland and his own classroom. As he hopes to create a stimulating teaching experience, a big part of it has been space utilization and finding the time to get his room organized.

If he could work any other job, it would be coding, because it’s concrete and structured and another profession where he could see the lightbulb go off in his student’s eyes, he said.

–Molly Bernardo

Sarah Gellert: Learning Center 132

Sarah Gellert, a new Learning Center teacher. (Clarion photo Minying Zhen)

What were you like in high school?
“I was really wild in high school. I was in a punk ska band and I had lots of fun colored mohawks. And I hangout with mostly boys, so I guess I would say I was a bit of a tomboy. I love to camp, love to make art and yeah, it was awesome.”

Why did you get into education?
“I was in art school and I had been there too long, so I went to my counselor and I was like ‘what can you give me that will let me graduate?’ And they were like ‘uh, we can give you a degree in art education,’ and I was like ‘I’ll take it! Like do I get a degree? Can I leave?’ Because I had been there for five years and four years is what you’re supposed to take. And yeah, they were like ‘it looks like you have the credits for art education,’ so that’s how I started.”

Why did you come to Cleveland?
That is an interesting story. So I am from New Hampshire. I just moved here last year. And I was at a school in New Hampshire and I was getting some pushback related to things like race and gender and the policies there are behind the times. What happened was the Black Student Union there asked the school board to publically agree that Black Lives Matter and the school board was like ‘that’s a political thing, we can’t say that because that’s like a political perspective.’ And I was like ‘Uh, so I don’t want to be in a school where they can’t say something really simple like Black Lives Matter.’ So that day, when I heard this story from the BSU, I typed into the computer ‘Schools where Black Lives Matter’ and the Portland Public School System popped up, so I was like ok, I think I’m going to move to Portland.”

What’s your biggest challenge teaching at Cleveland this year?
“I think the biggest thing is because I’m new I haven’t gotten to meet everybody, and I think that it’s hard. Like when someone will either refer to a teacher whom I haven’t heard of, or like a program, like all the little like things, and I’ll end up being like ‘well what does that mean?’ And so the hardest thing is learning all the things that are specific to the school and meeting enough people so that when someone says like ‘Hey, can you tell me where Mr. So-and-so’s room is?’ I can be like ‘yeah.’ Like on parent teacher night someone asked me where the gym was and I was like “Uh, well, I’ve seen a sign for it once.”

What was your favorite color of mohawk that you had in high school?
“My favorite color mohawk? I had this very orangey red mohawk and I would say that was probably my favorite, because it was the brightest.”

–Lucy Core & Emma Bass


Alexandria Gainer: Para-educator

Alexandria Gainer, a new para educator, helps a student with his project. (Clarion photo Dylan Chappell)

What were you like in high school?
I was super social, friends with everyone. Friends with my teachers a lot of the time too, and just played a lot of volleyball. I mostly wanted to do well so I could continue playing volleyball.

Why did you get into education?
When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be a high school counselor when I got older, maybe because we did not have one and I enjoyed caring for people. I never thought I’d be a para educator but I am thankful it was an opportunity that granted itself to me.

Why did you come to Cleveland?
I was initially hired to coach the JV volleyball team here, and in doing that, I was told about a position open, that I was qualified for (being a para) and thought it would be a great opportunity to get my foot in the door for the rest of my career.

What’s your biggest challenge teaching at Cleveland this year?
My biggest challenge has mainly been just making sure I’m learning what’s best for the kids, and also giving myself grace. I understand I’m new to this job and I have to understand that I am not always going to know what to do. Luckily I’ve had great staff around me to help me when I ask for it.

What’s your favorite out of school activity?
My favorite out of school activity is probably hanging out with my dog Leena, and some friends. Oftentimes listening to loads of music and going to concerts!

– Vivi Golomb

Jennifer Andres: Counseling

New counselor Jennifer Andres is ready to help students in the counseling office. (Clarion photo Dylan Wise and Ellie Usher)

What were you like in high school?
I grew up in a mountain town, so I was outdoorsy, did a lot of skiing. It was a very small school so we were all very close. I was very independent. Good student, mostly.

Why did you get into education?
I come from a family of educators, my grandparents on my dad’s side were both New York city public school teachers, and when I got to college I started taking some education classes and ended up doing that as a concentration, and found that I really loved it.

Why did you come to Cleveland?
I was lucky enough to take over for Morgan McFadden when she moved on to a full time position. I love working with high school students, and I have nothing but great things to say about the supportive team in the counseling office, everyone’s been very welcoming. And I love this neighborhood and this community.

What’s your biggest challenge teaching at Cleveland this year?
My biggest challenge, because I came from a middle school where I was a counselor, was probably learning literally like the scheduling, and the learning curve with the technology that’s used in high school. It’s very different from what I did in middle school. So that’s probably the hardest piece of the adjustment.

I notice you have a number of dog images around your office…
(Andres pulls out a pillow with a picture of three dogs on it.) These are my dogs! I have three. This is Brambles, this is Kiki, and this is Dally. I’m calling them my therapy dogs, because everyone can hug ‘em here. I wish I could bring them all in. Kiki, the middle one, doesn’t let anybody touch her except for our family, so she’d be a terrible therapy dog, but this guy: loves everybody. So I have three dogs and two cats, and have just recently become the unwilling caretaker of my daughter’s hamster. She moved on to college and left him with me. It’s a pretty crazy house when the doorbell rings.


Additional Staff

–Quinn Thomas

Megan Powers: Paraeducator

Liz Whitehouse: IB Admin Support

Liz Whitehouse is new this year as support staff, helping IB coordinator Jennifer Wiandt. (Clarion photo Ellie Usher and Dylan Wise)

Bea Lake: Government and Economics

Bea Lake, new government teacher, helping students. (Clarion photo Dylan Chappell)


Josh Gray – Para-educator

New staff- Josh gray, new special education teacher & football coach. (Clarion photo Emma Bass)