La Jolla High gears up for new year


There’s that palpable sense of anticipation in the air at La Jolla High School as students, teachers, administrators and parents prep for the first day of school on Tuesday.

Principal Dana Shelburne believes in “hitting the ground running” for the first day of school, which is why the public school puts so much emphasis on student orientation leading up to the big day.

“When I became principal, I just said, ‘Let’s get kids registered,’ and we’ve got that down to a fine-tuned science now,” said Shelburne, who credited the PTA, staff and parents with huge assists in the process.

Two weeks before opening day, a total of 1,600 students in each LJHS class, on their own separate days, were guided through a rigorous orientation at the school at 750 Nautilus St. with the help of 200 PTA volunteers.

This year, getting high school students checked in was aided by online registration. “It went as smooth as you could want as we’ve moved into the world of electronics a little bit more deeply, having all our registration materials online for parents to download and fill out so their kids could bring them in with them,” said Shelburne.

The opening of a new school year isn’t just exciting for students. It’s just as big a deal for teachers, especially new ones like LJHS Latin/English instructor Wendy Wira who cut her teeth student teaching at La Jolla High spring semester.

“This is my first day as a contracted employed teacher at a high school and it’s very exciting - I’m thrilled,” said Wira, who has a master’s degree from San Diego State University and could have pursued a Ph.d., but opted to teach high school instead.

“I really like interacting with students in the classroom rather than the academic side of it,” she noted.

Wira will be teaching English, Latin and literature for ninth- and 10th-graders, covering such classic as Homer’s “Odyssey” and Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.”

Wira feels fortunate.

“It’s just great to work at such wonderful school with such great people and students,” she said.

The first day(s) of school are also big for Beth Behnke, director of guidance at LJHS. “There’s never a down day in the life of a counselor,” she quipped. “Right now we’re very busy in the scheduling process and selection of appropriate curriculum. We’re very much focused on the seniors as they anticipate college application time, so we’re making sure they have everything they need to present themselves and package well.”

Behnke added counselors will be spending “tons of time” in the classroom and in special workshops the first month of school preparing seniors for all the applications, essays and tests they’re going to need to move on to higher education.

High school supporters, like Jackie Helm, communication chair for the Foundation of La Jolla High School, are also busy planning ahead as time for school to begin rolls around.

Helm is in the throes of planning the school’s first big fundraiser, Taste of La Jolla, to be held Oct. 12 and featuring cuisine from 20-plus gourmet restaurants in the Jewel. “It’s just a great evening outside with tastings,” said Helm. “It kicks off the fundraising year for us and is a wonderful community event.”

Taste of Tickets are $40 and are on sale at the Foundation office at the high school or by contacting Foundation members.

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