NEW TEACHERS 23-24: Chang, Karp, Cohen

NEW TEACHERS 23-24: Chang, Karp, Cohen
‘Easygoing’ new physics and engineering teacher hopes his classes will laugh
CLASSROOM: Mr. Chang said he does not think he will be as strict as other teachers at Shalhevet. (Ella Hoenig)

With a goal of making his classes fun and engaging, Mr. Taek Chang has joined the Shalhevet faculty as a new Physics teacher. He is also an advisor for the Robotics Team and is teaching two other classes – Engineering, only for freshmen, and Environmental Science for upperclassmen. 

After working various jobs, Mr. Chang received his bachelor’s degree in physics from California State University, Long Beach and was planning on teaching immediately afterwards, but he found himself at Toyota Financial Services instead. 

He returned to school in 2017 to get teaching credentials from California State University, Dominguez Hills and then taught at two other schools – a charter school in Westlake and at Santa Monica High School – before coming to Shalhevet. 

“Teaching is a second career,” Mr. Chang said in an interview. “I was late to get my bachelors, and then before that I did a whole bunch of odd jobs. I sold cars for five years, worked in bars, delivered furniture.

“It’s really not so important what you learn, it’s more important how you learn to think things through,” he said. “How you look at data, break a problem down and work towards solving it. That’s really what I’m trying to teach the kids in any class I teach.”

Mr. Chang considers himself an easygoing teacher and wants to create learning environments with lots of laughter.

It’s really not so important what you learn. It’s more important how you learn to think things through.

— Mr. Taek Chang

“You should expect to have some measure of fun,” said Mr. Chang. “Cause, let’s face it, kids your age, I try to make it a little bit more engaging. So they should expect to have a little bit more fun. Hopefully, I can make them laugh. And hopefully, we all get towards rowing in the same direction by the end of the year.”

Mr. Chang hopes students will not take advantage of his relaxed classroom setting. 

“I try to get to them a lot more organically,” Mr. Chang said, referring to his students. “We all find an area that we’re all happy and we can function at.”

In his free time, Mr. Chang loves to play pool, and considers himself fairly good at it.

“In the grand scheme of things I’m very, very terrible,” Mr. Chang said. “But if you were to watch me play, chances are you’d be amazed by how good I was.”

New art teacher wants students who haven’t liked it to look again
FUNDAMENTALS: Students unfamiliar with art, Ms. Karp said, will be able to learn the essentials in her classes. (Ella Hoenig)

New art teacher Ms. Rona Karp wants students who have previously struggled with art to learn the basic concepts of composition.

This year, she is teaching all three 10th-grade sections of the school’s only required full-year arts course, Composition and Design.

Ms. Karp majored in Urban Studies with a specialization in architecture at Columbia University and then earned a master’s in architecture at UCLA.

After university, she worked in a firm known as the SWA Group, mainly working in large-scale urban design including parts of California State University, Long Beach.

Ms. Karp wants all of her students to be engaged with art and to connect students who never enjoyed the subject.

“Keep an open mind and try things,” said Ms. Karp in an interview. “If an assignment seems like something you don’t want to do, do it, try to take it seriously. If you don’t really understand what you’re doing, go talk to the teacher about it.”

She said her classes would focus on art fundamentals, and that while language is different from art, in both cases there are building blocks that lead to expertise.

“A lot of people are starting from square one, just understanding that the basics of drawing would be similar to the language,” she said.  “You have to get some literacy fluency, and it’s only after that that you can start experimenting.”

Ms. Karp also loves musical theater and is a member of the Jewish Women’s Repertory Company, where she is planning to be in her sixth production. She has previously played roles such as Marius in Les Miserables and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. This year, she will be involved in The Sound of Music.

Scuba-loving new teacher guarded Israeli prime ministers before teaching Hebrew
WATER: New Hebrew teacher Mr. Cohen fell in love with scuba diving and surfing while living by the beach in Eilat. (Sam Elyazadeh)

Mr. Barak Cohen, a native of northern Israel who also lived in the country’s south, is the newest addition to the Shalhevet Hebrew department. This year, he is teaching both freshmen and junior Hebrew classes.

Mr. Cohen was born and raised in the northern city of Karmiel, which is near Haifa, and attended the local schools while growing up. He attended Sapir College in Gevim and Kibbutzim College in Tel Aviv, before living in the southern beach city of Eilat. He then moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to pursue teaching.

Before teaching, Mr. Cohen was a bodyguard for the Israeli government for five years, he said, and protected then–Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then–Defense Minister Amir Peretz. He later realized that his true passion was teaching.

“I was working in security for many years with the prime minister, but felt that I wanted to do something meaningful,” said Mr. Cohen in an interview.

After teaching high school in southern Israel, he moved to Los Angeles for more opportunities as an educator. He started by teaching at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy for two years before coming to Shalhevet.

Although he did not grow up religious, Mr. Cohen now wraps tefillin and prays daily, he said.

While living in Eilat, Mr. Cohen fell in love with the ocean and found himself in the water almost daily. This, he said, is why he now lives in Santa Monica.

“I would teach high school and then go scuba diving,” said Mr. Cohen.

His goal for this school year, he said, is to make his students love the Hebrew language and want to become better at speaking it. He hopes to accomplish this by teaching with less lecturing and instead by listening to the students speak Hebrew and having them participate in group projects.

In his free time, Mr. Cohen enjoys surfing, playing guitar, listening to music and reading books.

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