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Q&A shines spotlight on Sierra theatre teacher
Sierra High theatre teacher Diana Puett

Sierra High teacher Diana Puett is eclectic, like a bag of mixed candies. She has taught as many subjects in as many places as there are flavors in a bag of Jelly Bellies. Mrs. Puett was one of the first teachers to teach at Sierra. She left to teach at Lathrop High when it opened but came back to Sierra as “Sierra was home.” She currently teaches theatre and video editing, but she has taught English in the past. I got the chance to interview Mrs. Puett about her variety of experiences in life.

Q: How has COVID-19 and the quarantine affected how you have taught your classes?

A: For a while there when we had the off-campus group, the on-campus group, and the totally-off-campus group, it was like teaching three different classes in the same class. I had to prepare different things for each group, which was kind of crazy. Now it’s not as bad. We have just the two groups: the blue group or the grey group; and either they all do the same thing or, what one group does one day, the next group does the next day. The smaller amount of students is nice because when they’re in class I can work with them one on one much more easily but, the bad part about the smaller amount of kids in class is that you guys aren’t getting that social interaction or that time to be with your peers so much.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: It was one of three choices that I had always considered. I wanted to be a veterinarian but, my high school counselor told me that girls weren’t veterinarians that they were either nurses or teachers. And so those were my other two options, so I worked in dialysis for 11 years and after two years in dialysis, I figured out that nursing wasn’t where I wanted to go, and I worked full time and put myself through school so that I could be a teacher.

Q: What was your upbringing like?

A: Until I was in fourth grade, we moved every year, just because my parents were kind of nomads. My dad worked in grocery stores, and we had enough, but we weren’t rich by any means. And then when I was in fourth grade we moved to Modesto and settled down there. And again, usually we had enough to eat, we had enough money for clothes and all the stuff that you need, but sometimes, you know, things were tight. Sometimes we had pancakes for dinner.

Q: Was there a person who inspired you to follow the path of life that you took?

A: Yeah, my high school Ag teacher, Mr. Nimpheous, kept me in school and inspired me to end up being a teacher. He was there for me whenever I had problems or needed help. He was there for all the Ag kids.

Q: How long have you been a teacher? And where and what have you taught?

A: I did one summer school session for Modesto City Schools before I got a teaching job, and then I did a sub job in Houston for my master teacher, for a little bit. And then I got hired in Manteca, and I got hired for East Union, as an English teacher, then I came over to Sierra when Sierra opened, and then I went to Lathrop when Lathrop opened up. I like opening schools because you know all the students—and then on the year we had several principals in one year, I asked to come back to Sierra, because Sierra was home. This is my 29th year teaching.

Q: Have there been any students that you have taught that really stood out to you (in a positive way)?

A: Oh all kinds of students, you know me with names, I don’t do names real well but, I had one young lady who came from Mexico City, and she didn’t know any English, and by the end of the year she was speaking English and because she was so motivated she got a full ride to the university she wanted to go to, she only had to pay $4 a year or so, she was the most exceptional girl. Other than that, the students that stand out are the ones who try hard and are good people.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Play World of Warcraft; and read. Usually when we’re off on break I’ll read five to 10 books on break. I don’t cook. My husband and I watch a lot of movies together.

Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?

A: Scary ones.

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: Christine Feehan is probably my favorite author.

Q: How much of an impact has COVID had on your outside life?

A: Pretty much don’t have one anymore except for playing World of Warcraft, cause you know, you can’t go out. So yeah, that’s pretty much it, it’s limited all of my recreational activities to stuff we can do around the house. I wear a mask every time I go out to go grocery shopping or get gas or do any of that stuff.

Q: Why should students take theatre?

A: The biggest thing I have noticed about students who take Theatre is it improves their confidence. On that list of skills from the Success 101, the ones that employers are looking for, the only thing that theatre doesn’t cover is the technology one. Its got problem solving, communicating with other people, being responsible. It’s just the technology is light in that one. Besides that, it’s fun. You get to pretend to be somebody else. You can play with props, right?