New math and science teacher loved science but fell for math


BP Photo by Evan Beller

MATH: Mr. Tan started at Shalhevet on Oct. 19. When he was in high school, he had issues with homework and failed senior math.

By Keira Beller, Features Editor

Shalhevet’s new mathematics and physics teacher, Mr. Rico Tan, calls his winding journey to becoming a teacher a “trial by fire.” 

With a degree in Biology from UCLA, he tried going into research but didn’t feel that it fit him. 

“I tried teaching and I found it super interesting,” said Mr. Tan. “Then, here I am. I just find it really interesting. I was dropped into the job and I’m like, oh, this is fun.”

One of two teachers replacing Mr. Chris St. Germaine, who resigned in October, Mr. Tan is teaching Geometry, Advanced Geometry and SAS Physics at Shalhevet this year. 

It wasn’t something he expected. In fact, before college, he failed his senior math class in high school. 

Why? He disliked doing homework.

“Isn’t that ironic?” Mr. Tan said in an interview with the Boiling Point. “I did not turn in a single piece of homework in my senior year of high school. It was a whole issue then, but I actually loved math besides that. I really love math.”

His current homework policy has a penalty of one point lost every 24 hours after it is due.

Mr. Tan moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines in 2004 when he was a pre-teen, and has remained here ever since. 

During his first year of teaching, Mr. Tan worked as a substitute at schools across Los Angeles County, then taught at Fusion Academy near Shalhevet before moving to another private school closer to his home in Burbank.

He has taught everything from sixth-grade math to AP Calculus BC, along with biology, chemistry and physics at both middle school and high school levels. 

He said his pure love for math, especially geometry, is one of his favorite parts of working at Shalhevet so far, despite coming from a life sciences background. 

Joining the Shalhevet faculty is also Mr. Tan’s first time being immersed in the Jewish community.

He is learning Hebrew words students and teachers use daily, such as Mincha, and learning about Jewish culture, asking questions such as the difference between kosher and regular salt with science teacher Mr. Pavel Lieb. 

“There’s a lot to learn,” said Mr. Tan. “I like learning about people so it’s something I’m mostly interested in, working at Shalhevet.”

Outside of his profession, Mr. Tan enjoys all sorts of driving — from long drives to racetrack driving. He often drives up to scenic spots, where he eventually picked up hiking as another hobby. 

He watches YouTube instead of television, mostly taking interest in car videos, news, and science videos exploring different subjects like astrology, entomology, wildlife, and geology. 

Mr. Tan is very excited to learn more about Judaism at Shalhevet and finds the students sociable. 

“They are relatively easy to work with because you can talk with them,” he said. “Of course, that’s not everybody — being realistic here…. SAS physics– awesome bunch. Ninth-grade geometry — great bunch, 10th grade — mostly great.”