Joseph Tellez has been selected as next year's chemistry teacher. (Photo by Cissy Shi)

Cancer researcher Joseph Tellez hired to teach chemistry

After nearly four months of searching, the school has hired Joseph Tellez to replace chemistry teacher Robin Altman.

Tellez was recommended by teacher Chris Millsback’s wife, who works with Tellez at UC Davis Medical Center, where he is currently researching cancer.

Tellez said that some of his qualifications for the job come from his background in research.

Those qualifications include a bachelor’s in genetics from UC Davis and a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Nevada, Reno.

“Being in research gives you a very detail-oriented outlook,” Tellez said. “It makes you want to always ask why and how do I find out more.”

Sue Nellis, head of high school, said that the greatest assets Tellez brings are an awareness of the different levels of skill amongst his students, a team-player personality and his knowledge of science.

“Some people think that chemistry is the best thing to happen since apple pie, and other people don’t even want to take the class,” Nellis said. “A good teacher has be able to balance that on all fronts.

“When he taught a class with the general chemistry students, they gave him a positive review and said that he was really engaged and seemed interested.”

Tellez is also a second-generation chemist, as his father was one in the industrial sector.

Tellez said that the switch in job came at a perfect time.

Juniors Chien Ho and Erin Reddy practice making a rainbow with acids and bases in AP Chemistry. (Photo by Adam K etchum)
Juniors Chien Ho and Erin Reddy practice making a rainbow with acids and bases in AP Chemistry. (Photo by Adam K etchum)

“Research is great, but there are, of course, some realities,” Tellez said. “You can’t spend the time that you want with your family, and it oftentimes requires you to move.”

Tellez, his wife Nucharee and their 3-year-old daughter are looking to put down roots.

“I can definitely see my daughter coming here once she is old enough,” Tellez said.

The quest for a new chemistry teacher was long and arduous, according to Nellis.

“First, you have to recognize that the pool of chemistry candidates is small,” she said. “Next you have to find someone who is willing to be in Sacramento. A lot of people are not willing to do that because we are a small school in a small city. Then you have to find someone who likes the school and the school likes.”

She said that many candidates from the East Coast who had a lot of teaching experience had no interest in moving to Sacramento.

During the nationwide search, Nellis conducted Skype, phone and in-person interviews. The search team included Nellis; headmaster Stephen Repsher; Kellie Whited, head of the science department; Altman; Brooke Wells, new head of high school; and physics teacher Glenn Mangold.


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