The Piedmont Highlander

The Student News Site of Piedmont High School

The Piedmont Highlander

The Piedmont Highlander

Lily Caldwell (12) receives flowers for Senior Night
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February 15, 2024

Teachers leaving amid COVID-19 pandemic

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As the students and staff of PHS await news on the return to campus, seven teachers are packing up their belongings and planning their moves: Anne Aldridge-Peacock, Todd Berry, Tom Casavant, Sidd Quinsaat, Jen Mckenzie, Michael Malione, and Nick Bruno.

Each teacher has their own reasons for leaving, some of which connect at some level to the pandemic, while others are leaving due to personal reasons or unrenewed contracts.

Science teacher Tom Casavant, who had been teaching in his first year at PHS, said that he is leaving because his contract was not renewed, and has not yet found another position elsewhere.

“It’s been rough because I’m just not particularly motivated to do anything right now,” Casavant said.

Moving on from his year at PHS is difficult when it comes to searching for a new job in the midst of the pandemic, Casavant said.

“I’m not too thrilled about leaving, especially right now,” he said. “But that’s life.”

Meanwhile, special education teacher and co-chair of Home Base Nick Bruno is bidding Piedmont goodbye after four years of working in the district. He and his girlfriend have decided to move to Los Angeles due to the expensive cost of living in the Bay Area, he said.

“Rent is so high, and we can’t do any better than what we already have,” Bruno said. “So there’s just not really any more opportunity for us to grow.”

They are also moving because he has family in Arizona, which is closer to Los Angeles, Bruno said.

“I’m originally from Phoenix, and Los Angeles is only a six hour drive from there, so we’ll be able to visit family a little more often,” Bruno said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

Bruno said that he has generally fond memories from his time in Piedmont.

“I’ve really enjoyed teaching at Piedmont. It’s been a great first position,” Bruno said. “The community is very close, and I’ve definitely felt really welcomed and supported here.”

Bruno said that he will especially miss the Tuesday morning coffee cart.

“I think everyone is going to miss the coffee cart,” he said. “We started that my first year, and all of the teachers really latched on, which was cool. I’m not sure if they are going to find a way to continue it next year, though.”

Similar to Casavant’s situation, Bruno said that he is somewhat worried about finding a new teaching job in LA.

“[Schools are] always going to need special education teachers, so luckily, I know that there will be a job for me somewhere,” he said. “but it’s still a lot more difficult than usual.”

Though Bruno’s departure was planned, he said that he is aware of teachers whose moves were affected by the current situation under the pandemic.

“Quite a few teachers have had to leave earlier than expected because of this pandemic,” Bruno said.

One of those teachers is social studies teacher Todd Berry, who said he is leaving because his wife unexpectedly lost her job at Airbnb due to bad business caused by the coronavirus.

“We originally moved up from Los Angeles for her job and found PHS, which was offering a spot and turned out to be a pretty great school,” he said.

After three years at PHS, Berry said what stood out to him most were the teachers.

“The first thing that I think of when I think of Piedmont is the teachers, Berry said. “The department that I had was awesome. We hung out a lot [and] we were very close.”

Berry said that lunchtime meetings were very special because of the community that he and his fellow teachers created through those moments. Everyone was always very personal with one another, which created a comfortable atmosphere and gave them something to look forward to.

“All the down time spent with the other teachers was definitely a constant highlight of working at Piedmont,” Berry said.

Along with his strong relationships with the other teachers, Berry said that his students also really stood out to him.

“I was kind of stunned at the amount of work that students were willing to do— that students would just immediately get going,” he said.

Berry said that he and his family are moving to Michigan.

“We have family back in the midwest and we can’t afford to live here,” Berry said. “So we are going to move back to Detroit.”

The preparations for the move have been extremely difficult, he said. With a four-month-old baby, planning for travel is especially tough.

“This is a hard move because it’s not really our choice, per se, to leave on this timeframe.” Berry said.

Moving out of California is also hard because of his love for the state and his connection to the Bay Area, he said.

“This is something I will always have with me, so it is very sentimental and emotional for me to leave because I thought I would be here a lot longer,” Berry said. “It feels like a part of my home.”

In regards to his time at PHS, Berry said, he has really appreciated every moment of teaching the students and will miss his time with the faculty.

“Piedmont students are really excellent students —really smart and deep-thinking— and this is a really talented, smart, dedicated, professional faculty who are fun, sweet, welcoming, and warm,” he said. “I hope that I [will] take away the benefits that I have gotten from being around teachers that are so good and smart and creative, and students that are the same. I think I came out a winner from being at Piedmont for three years.”

*The other four teachers mentioned in this story declined to be interviewed.

Anne Aldridge-Peacock – social psychology

Todd Berry – social studies

Nick Bruno – special education

Tom Casavant – science

Michael Malione – math

Jen Mckenzie – math

Sidd Quinsaat – A cappella

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