BY EMILY MORENO
High school is an important part of everyone’s life. In these years, teenagers learn crucial lessons and grow into adults prepared to go face the world. As CCHS reaches the 50 year milestone, this school will have influenced tens of thousands of students.
Some alumni have come back to their Alma Mater to help this new generation of teenagers through their high school careers.
“I know the school and it’s such a great school. Why wouldn’t I wanna be back where I graduated from?” reading and English teacher Jerusha Quillen said.
Quillen graduated from CCHS in 1989 and has taught for 21 years. After teaching elementary school she felt it was time to transition to high school and CCHS was the right school for her.
A newer addition to the staff, Trent Austin started at CCHS in 2020 with a fascinating journey leading to his position. After coaching soccer, Austin decided to use his science background and apply it to teaching, starting as a sub then a temporary sub until Austin earned his position as a permanent teacher of Biology, Environmental Science and Chemistry.
“You see the back end of things almost like the behind the scenes work and having experienced it in front of the camera when I was here as a student it’s like full circle,” Austin said.
Austin was part of the CCHS’ graduating class of 2013. In addition to his academics, Austin took part in many school clubs and sports such as soccer, cross country, track, Cowboy Television (CTV), National Honor Society (NHS), Student Government Association (SGA) and was class vice-president.
“When I saw that a position opened up here I had applied for it to transfer and luckily I got it,” Marine science teacher Patti Hillebert said. “I knew I’d be able to be here with my kids too eventually, they’re not here yet but it was also nice, you know, the commute.”
Hillebert graduated from Cooper in 1993 and decided to come back to teach after starting her family. After teaching at JP Taravella High School, Hillebert came back to CCHS due its convenient location.
“I don’t know, it’s kind of weird I guess cause I didn’t ever really plan on being a teacher and then I’m teaching at the school I graduated from,” Chemistry and AICE Environmental Management teacher John Laffey said. “It’s just it’s [a] really strange feeling but it’s really cool at the same time.”
Laffey graduated from CCHS in 2006 and started here in 2020. Before coming to CCHS, Laffey taught at another school; Laffey found an open position here at Cooper, applied for the job and is now part of the science department here at CCHS.
“This is definitely where I plan on staying,” Laffey said. “I like the environment, it’s a good place.”
After reflecting on their time at CCHS, one big difference they noticed was the advancements in technology and their involvement in classes and students’ lives.
“When I was in school, if you had a phone it was like a flip phone, now everybody’s got a phone growing out of their hands like an appendix,” Laffey said. “I also feel like now students have a lot more resources available to them that they might not always be taking advantage of.”
Technology played a huge part in last year’s school year and does not seem to be disappearing with programs like Canvas becoming more essential to the curriculum. Despite some of the negatives, teachers are glad students have these extra resources and encourage students to take advantage of them.
“It was different. We didn’t have as much of the technology as you guys have today,” Hillebert said. “The school was different too but overall mostly the technology, the kids were similar, they liked going to the games and doing some clubs.”
The school has seen many cosmetic changes throughout all of its years. With many buildings knocked down and new spaces constructed. Yet, throughout the 50 years of CCHS students have many similarities.
“The students in themselves are pretty much the same, the thing I think is probably the biggest change I see is the acceptance that when I was in school there were no [open] LGBT+ [students] and none of that was like accepted,” Quillen said. “Now it’s very open and free, students are able to be who they are and we’re accepting that and that’s great that wasn’t like that when I went to school.”
Having been both a student and teacher is an unusual point of view that not every school has. CCHS has been a meaningful part of these teachers’ lives and there is no doubt that this connection is a contributing factor to this amazing school.