Alumnus teacher reflects on Redwood experiences

Sylvana Perczek

One job. That’s all it took for social studies teacher Jonathan Hirsch to realize his passion for teaching high school students. Because of three herniated discs in his lower back, he was forced to stop playing football in his junior year of college. Because of this he decided to pursue something new. What he didn’t know was that this incident would change his perspective on his career and his life.

In 1990, Hirsch came to Redwood as a freshman unsure of his future.

“I knew Redwood was a culture that was and still is very individualistic and represents an environment where ‘you do your thing, and I’ll do mine,’” Hirsch said. “I felt I had the freedom to pursue anything because of this.”

After graduating from Redwood in 1994, Hirsch attended Pomona College and played Division III football.

Due to the injury he suffered during his junior year of college,  he began coaching students at a local high school in Southern California, leading him to realize his love for teaching. He has now been teaching at Redwood for 13 years.

“Junior year in college, walking off the field, I knew I wanted to teach and coach football,” Hirsch said.

After graduating from Pomona College, Hirsch attended Dominican University of California to obtain his teaching credential. While earning his degree in education, he worked as a football coach at Redwood.

After earning his credentials, Hirsch left his coaching position at Redwood to work at St. Ignatius in

for four years, where he taught science and coached the football team. He vowed to leave only if Redwood offered him a job.

“Every teacher wants to teach kids that want to learn. Redwood’s level of reasonability and self-control is such that I felt I could be the kind of teacher that I wanted to be,” said Hirsch. 

Mr.Hirsch making a surprised face when looking into one of his old yearbook from the year 1994.
Social Issues teacher Jonathan Hirsch looks through one of his high school yearbooks from 1994.

Ten years after graduating high school, Hirsch was offered a full-time job at Redwood in 2004.

According to Hirsch, he was excited but nervous. Not knowing what to expect, he came back with an open mind.

“It was exciting, and to an extent, surreal in the sense that it was weird coming back as a teacher, not as a student. I adjusted really quickly. I’d been a teacher for four years, it wasn’t like I was new to teaching,” Hirsch said.

When he returned, Redwood was in the middle of a renovation, new fields were being built and classrooms were being gutted and installed with projectors.

However, as far as the cultural aspect goes, everything remained the same. “Students still drove nicer cars than teachers and most of the students were self-motivated and valued their education,” Hirsch said.

The fact that there weren’t many teachers at Redwood that he personally had during his school years made his transition smoother. It was intimidating to him to see the teachers that he did know because he really wanted to prove himself and do a good job.

Freshman Elizabeth Hylton, a student in one of Hirsch’s social studies classes, enjoys how her teacher’s past at Redwood has affected his teaching style.

“He’s definitely more proud of this school and has a bigger commitment to it because he’s an alumnus,” Hylton said. “He values his students having a good experience at Redwood. He’s the only teacher that I’ve ever had that has promoted football and basketball games, also music and drama. He really wants his students to be involved.”

Throughout his time teaching at Redwood, Hirsch has served as the head coach of the freshman football team for one year, the varsity defensive coordinator for four years and the varsity head coach for three years.

Many teachers want to believe that they’re doing something good or that they’re making their community a better place.

“I want my presence to make a difference at Redwood, at times that may have been ego-driven, but as I have gotten older I have become more and more conscious of that,” Hirsch said.   

When Hirsch first started teaching, getting credit for what he was doing was more of a priority. Now he’s reached a point where he’s seen so many of this students come back and share all the positive experiences that they’ve had with him.

“I don’t feel like I need any recognition for what I do at Redwood. I do it because I know it’s the right thing to do,” Hirsch said. “I try as much as I can to make contributions that I think are for the good of the community, even if it means self-sacrifice. As a teacher you have to be willing to make sacrifices to receive success.”