Decade of teaching comes to a close this semester

Special education teacher Jenny Giatis reflects on her time at HHS


Photo by Desmond Kamas

Throughout her 18 years of teaching, Giatis said she’s always been called Jenny by both staff and students.

By Desmond Kamas

Now on her 10th year at HHS, special education English teacher Jenny Giatis will be retiring at the end of the semester. Giatis said she has mixed feelings about the transition.

“It’s a relief and feels really good,” Giatis said. “And I’m kind of sad to leave Homestead and all my students who I love and adore.”

She said watching her students succeed and graduate were the most rewarding parts of her job.
“My students make me laugh every day,” she said, “and they’re super creative and they think, and just have a great time in class together.”

This past semester, Giatis taught with contemporary literature, including authors like Puchner and Kesey, which she said ties into her central philosophy.

Giatis said she helps her students to explore their individuality by embracing what makes them a “freak.” She keeps her own definition on the back of her classroom: “a person who is envied because they are a fabulously unique individual that can kick ass and has no need or desire to follow the flock.”

“That’s what I like to sort of encourage with my students,” Giatis said, “people who can think outside the box, and creative problem solving and high self-esteem for their uniqueness.”

Giatis said she was hesitant to define herself as a special education teacher “because there’s so much stigma attached to special ed” even though the program has changed greatly over the years.

“[Special education] is a really large umbrella … there’s all kinds of reasons why a student might have an individual education plan.”

Her decision to retire came after she moved to San Francisco, Giatis said, which pushed her round-trip commute to 100 miles each day.

“I have to get up really early … and be on the road by 6:15, but if I leave later, then, you know, it can double my commute,” she said.

Although there are some things about teaching Giatis said she will not miss, like paperwork, she said she would definitely miss the staff environment.

“There’s so many [people to thank], I don’t want to miss someone,” Giatis said.

Giatis said what will happen to her position after she retires remains unclear. Although she said she knows a new teacher will be taking her spot, she doesn’t know anything about him or her.

After she retires, Giatis said she hopes to become a freelance educational advocate, and invest more time into hobbies like dancing and painting.

“I’m looking forward to retirement,” she said. “It’s gonna be great.”