Another Year for our Pirate Staff

By Guillermina Rodriguez, Meddie Lozano, and Miriam Arias

June 10th 2016


When asked what makes Phoenix High School special, students and staff replied with: a caring environment, a concern for students, a united school, and strong relationships. Phoenix in its entirety is unique. “People are really like a family here” said Ariana Segura. This year has been a year of change, with many new teachers, shining moments, and lots of teachers leaving, including our amazing principal Mrs. Hale.

It is evident that without the staff of Phoenix High School, the school would not be as successful as it has become. This year Phoenix received the Silver Award from U.S News and World Report for Best High Schools in America. In addition Phoenix was also ranked 30th in Oregon and is one of two schools from Southern Oregon to receive this honor. Through the hard work and dedication of both the students and staff, Phoenix managed to make it another great year!

In the Health department, teacher Mrs. Campbell introduced another opportunity to students interested in earning college credit. Teaming up with RCC, she managed to put together Health Occupations, a new class for students where they can earn 3 college credits at no cost.  

Also new this year, two teachers teamed up to teach a class of record-breaking size at Phoenix. They held the class in the Rose St. Theatre to accommodate the high enrollment of AP students. Clint Rodreick and John Cornet teamed up to teach AP United States History in hopes of achieving the most academic success possible for their students.  

In the media department, Jeff Rhoades launched a new website designed to provide the latest news happening at Phoenix. This allowed his students in digital journalism to explore what it is really like to write informative articles and provide the school with the best content possible.  

Even with seriousness, it’s important to have an opportunity for fun and games. With that being said, Neil Carvalho took the Go-Kart Championship for the second year in his class, making it a back-to-back accomplishment.

In the Math department, Mr. Dougherty led another successful season with the math team this year. Mr. Dougherty brought many awards to Phoenix High School, including placing second for the year in their division for the Southern Oregon Math League.

English teacher Ms. Bryan, was able to put together an incredible opportunity for the students at Phoenix by organizing a workshop in the Rose St. Theatre. The speaker, Emmy Award Winner and famous author Kwame Dawes visited Phoenix this year to provide an informational workshop for students and read a few of his poems.   

Throughout the course of our lives we cross paths with new people in hopes of coming out with the best result. This is exactly what our new staff brought to us at Phoenix this year.

Mrs.Gutridge is new to the attendance office, taking over for Mr. Akil while he traveled to Egypt to teach for the year. She shares that the best memory she has had was simply meeting all the students at Phoenix High School, who have all touched her heart. She also says that she “loved the toga run, that was really fun, and Christmas when the choir came and sang to us here. It was so precious. And yesterday, seeing the seniors all grown up and saying goodbye.” She adds that, “[she’ll] never forget it.” And finally she ends by sharing a message to those here at Phoenix: “Thanks, thanks for having me, I love being a pirate!”  

New to the math department, we have Ms. Flores. Not only was she a new math teacher here at Phoenix, but she also taught a variety of different classes throughout the year ranging from Algebra, Leadership, and Health. As the new Leadership teacher this year, she faced many challenges not only with getting settled into the environment at Phoenix, but took on the challenge of organizing many school events throughout the year like the assemblies, spirit weeks, and many, many more. Ms. Flores says that, “the best memory [she’s] had this year is playing with the basketball girls and blocking them any chance that they got.” Later in the year, during basketball season, she would face the taste of irony as she shares an embarrassing moment. “My most embarrassing moment was getting blocked by Lindsey Burns during one of our basketball practices,” said Coach Flores.

As we welcomed new staff members this year at Phoenix, we must also say a fond farewell to many of our own as they move onto the next chapter of their lives.

Brenda Selee, who is the librarian here at PHS, will now be the longest working person here at PHS with Sandy Neal and Mary Barton leaving. Brenda has grown close and is now good friends with both of them. When asked to speak about Mrs. Hale, Brenda simply couldn’t without crying.

Sandy Neal has been registrar here at Phoenix High School for 21 years. She shares that having the opportunity to be an advisor for 4 years is one of her most memorable moments here at PHS. She says that in this time, she discovered “what it’s like to grow close to [her] students as a mentor and coach, to care for them, to listen and help guide them through the lessons plans and with this: “Be YOUR Best, Do YOUR Best and Look YOUR Best!” She believes those three things are encouraging to all of our hearts. She also remembers a student mentioning to her in the in the English hallway back in 1991-92; “Miss Sandy, I’m going to marry that gal one day.” They did marry and now they have three beautiful grown daughters.

This was Mary Barton’s 30th year teaching here at Phoenix High School. Currently she is a social studies teacher but has taught quite a few classes over the years: Government, Economics, AP Economics, US History, World History, World Topics, Sociology, Personal Finance, Leadership, Sewing, and Crafts. She also shared some of her most memorable moments from the past 30 years she has spent here at Phoenix. She mostly recalls “the time the ceiling tiles fell from the small gym ceiling on students at an assembly. [She will also remember] spending all night at the school with about 100 students and roller skating in the halls, and laughing in the school van while traveling around the state with students for Model UN, Leadership, Economics, or World Quest.” She also mentions that she will remember spending a lot of time in room N12. She says, “I think that in my life I may have spent more time in that room than in any other single place. Of course, it’s not really the room, it’s all the students: some interested and interesting, some sad, fearful, or angry, and some just fun and funny!”

Mr. Theiring is one of the history teachers here at PHS and has been here for ten years. Although his first years started here, his last may not end here. Mr. Theiring is leaving to Taiwan for a year with a teaching contract there. In his years here, he has witnessed a lot. In fact, his most unforgettable memory “that has been burned into [his] mind” that occurred during his first year of teaching was a brawl between two girls. Mr. Theiring said “the whole confrontation only lasted a few seconds, maybe a minute tops, but it seemed like forever in my mind.”  This has been a great year for many teachers, however, Mr. Theiring’s “whole time here has been unforgettable.”

“I don’t know if I can choose a best, but a fond one was leading into the Christmas holiday spirit week last year. My AP students were singing Christmas Carols before Thanksgiving and I told them they weren’t allowed to do that, so they started calling me the Grinch,” said Ms. Singleton. During that time of year, Phoenix held a holiday dress up day and she asked her mother on short notice to make her a Grinch costume and when her students walked in to see that she had turned into the Grinch for the day. She said that the class loved and it and felt like they grew closer from then on. One thing that Ms. Singleton says she will not miss is the standardized testing she has to give students towards the end of the year. Ms. Singleton taught English in a variety of grade levels at the high school ranging from sophomores to seniors. After teaching at Phoenix for three years, Ms. Singleton will be in Dubai next school year, where she received a teaching contract for two years.  

Phoenix High School faces the challenge of saying farewell to our own captain, Jani Hale. In July of 2003 Mrs. Hale received a phone call from Superintendent Ben Bergreen asking her, “Would you like to be principal of Phoenix High School?” Excited she responded, “YES!” As she hung up the phone, she realized that she was standing in Ocracoke Island in North Carolina, home of Blackbeard the Pirate. She knew from the start that she was destined to become a Phoenix Pirate.  

Mrs. Hale couldn’t decide on just one memorable moment so she decided to share a few. She shares that in 2006, the day after her first Student Led Conference, she learned that from a statistics, 98% of parents attended. However, the day before she was told, along with Mrs. Ingwerson, that if 30% of parents showed up they would be lucky. She later says, “Those cynics never doubted our work after that day.” Another memorable moment occurred in 2014, when she learned that Phoenix had eliminated that graduation gap between Latinos and Anglo students. That day she realized that Phoenix High School’s commitment to see greatness within all students had borne fruit. A fun memory was at an assembly, where she invited all the students to join her on the floor to dance the electric cha cha, and they all did!

Jani Hale has really transformed PHS in so many positive ways. Seeing her leave is going to be hard for everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting her. Mrs. Hale has always strived to make Phoenix better and part of the reason came from an unexpected phone call her first year here. Mrs. Hale said that a teacher from Ashland suggested that a great idea would be sending all the students who don’t want to go to college to PHS and in return, PHS would send to Ashland High School all the students who do want to go to college. Mrs. Hale, with all the sass in her, replied with “I don’t think so, BYE-BYE!” That one phone call is what gave her a vision for this school, and the “we’ll blow your socks off” attitude.

One thing that she will always remember from Phoenix High School is the kindness of the students. Mrs. Hale says, “I never underestimates kindness. Kindness can open more doors than any test score.” Whenever she would walk down the hall, she would ask the students, “How are you?” and she would usually receive, “No, Mrs. Hale how are you?” The warmth, love, and respect she received from the students carried her through some very difficult times.


Words of Advice:

“My words of advice are to get to class on time so that you don’t have lunch detention,” shares Ms. Flores for future students.

Some final words from Mrs. Hale:

“My advice would be, never give advice, because no one is like you. Don’t look at your friends to your right or to your left. Your situation is so unique that you can’t compare yourself to no one. So I don’t want Phoenix High School to compare themselves to Medford or Ashland or anyone else we’re just going to be the best we can be.”


Some final words from Sandy Neal:

“Students; I know you hear this over & over: ”Take this time to learn, make mistakes, pick yourself back up and do what you dream to do. Make integrity, hope, kindness and humbleness your label!”

“Staff: You are amazing in your willingness to serve, teach, and support. You are warriors!”  


Some final words from Mary Barton to the students of PHS:

“Thank you for every kindness you’ve ever sent my way and for every word of encouragement or concern you’ve ever given anyone. Thank you for every time you put in your best effort, and for every time you came back to give it one more try. It’s been a fascinating journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Some words of advice from Ms. Singleton to the students:

“Just to try. I know that sometimes it seems that we can’t to do it because we don’t have a lot of faith in ourselves, but if we try, then we can’t ask anything more. Mistakes are going to happen, and if we can learn from them and grow, then it wasn’t a failure.”

Thank you to all the staff here at Phoenix High School for everything you have done for the students. We truly appreciate you and cannot wait for another successful school year to come, along with new memories. And good luck to all the staff members who are continuing their lives outside of Phoenix, we only hope for the best for you on your new adventure!   

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