By HUDSON WYATT and ALIJAH COTA
Stephanie Hjelmstad has been teaching at Manteca High for 18 years now. In that time, she has taught eight different subjects: English I, English III, English IV, Leadership, AVID, Health Careers English, Speech, and SLC English.
Hjelmstad graduated from Oakdale High School and went to San Jose State University. She majored in English and Humanities. Then she went to the University of the Pacific to get her master’s in educational administration. She plays a significant role at Manteca High because she is the one who is behind all the rallies and the fun activities on campus.
Tower News sat down with Stephanie Hjelmstad to chat about her love of teaching, what it feels like to be on Manteca High campus, and what mark she wants to leave on the campus.
Tower News: What does the Manteca spirit mean to you?
Mrs. Hjelmstad: What the Manteca High spirit means to me is just embodying being a Buffalo. This means being a part of the herd, so you are not just one person being by yourself; so you have people by your side to protect you and be there for you. It’s also the reverse; you are there for others, too. We accomplish academic goals together; we accomplish athletic goals together; we also accomplish community goals, because we are all one herd.
TN: What makes you love teaching?
SH: I love getting to learn from my students. Hopefully, it’s more than I teach them. They keep me young, and I love hearing about everyone’s successes. Even if they have bad days, I enjoy listening to them no matter what. One of the best things is being able to teach them my nerdy English skills. I enjoy exposing my students to literature and something they are maybe not exposed to. I think it helps everyone be a better well-rounded person. I cherish being a teacher and couldn’t see myself doing a different career.
TN: You went to Oakdale High School; what separates Oakdale and Manteca?
SH: People make fun of me for being “Mustang born, Mustang bred, going to be a Mustang to the day I am dead.” I am a Buffalo; I have been here for 18 years and was only at Oakdale for four years. I will always be a Mustang, but I love Manteca High. I love my students; I love the spirit! I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.
TN: What does it feel like to be on Manteca High campus?
SH: It feels like home to be here. It feels welcoming here. There is a place here for everyone. I have always felt like this has been home for me. We are one big family here. It has always been a loving and welcoming community. Hopefully, everyone feels like that.
TN: What is your favorite memory here at Manteca High?
SH: I don’t have one favorite memory at MHS, but every time I’m overseeing an event, and I look out and see the student body having a great time, my heart swells, and I’m just so happy to be providing fun memories for our kids.
TN: What made you become an English/Leadership teacher?
SH: I had a fantastic English teacher my junior year of high school (Mrs. Olson at Oakdale) who inspired me to become a teacher. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to become an English teacher.
TN: What lesson have you learned being a teacher?
SH: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that no two students are the same, and my students are not like how I was as a high schooler. I only had one experience with education before becoming a teacher, and it was mine. Now, my eyes have been opened to a million different upbringings, sets of goals, values, ability levels, and struggles … which has dramatically changed how I teach.
TN: What mark do you want to leave at Manteca High?
SH: As the Activity Director, I hope to leave a legacy of well-planned, inclusive, fun events for years to come. I hope students leave MHS with beautiful memories of fun times and significant events.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alijah Cota is a senior journalism student at Manteca High School. Cota’s the 2022 Shepard for Manteca’s football team. He plays middle linebacker and fullback and he enjoys going out with his friends.