Looking Back on Women’s History Month in Gratitude

Since 1987, when Congress declared the month of March as Women’s History Month, Americans have used the 31 days to honor and remember the women who have made history and their accomplishments. 

Inspired by and in celebration of Women’s History Month, I asked members of The Plank staff, current students of Jesuit High School Sacramento as well as alumni to share with me their appreciation for the women at Jesuit who have personally impacted them. 

Here is what they shared with me:

Ms. Kelly Barnes

“Ms. Barnes is one woman that has really inspired me at Jesuit. She continues to consistently work hard to promote a positive faith environment here at Jesuit. Everyone seems to love being around Ms. Barnes because of the positive and reinforcing energy that she brings to campus. She never fails to put a smile on anyone’s face.”

—DJ Hoang ’21

Ms. Amy Becker

“Ms. Becker is someone who guides you to success. She always encourages students to ask any questions they have, so that they have a better understanding of the topic. In addition, she is a hard-working mother with a baby son, which could cause stress and fatigue, yet she comes to class ready to teach and glad to support students in their studies.”

—Angelo Trajeco ’22

Ms. Jessica Billigmeier

“Ms. Billigmeier was in my Companion Pod this year and I really enjoyed getting to talk to her each week. We often talked about football and our daily lives, and she always truly listened to what I was saying. Ms. Billigmeier is extremely caring, thoughtful, and compassionate.”

—Zach Schmidt ’21

Ms. Jennifer Borasi 

“Under her tutelage, I made some valuable first steps toward growth in writing, and Ms. Borasi’s calm presence definitely helped out in that regard. Her curriculum was definitely different which was welcoming. I especially liked the creative writing prose assignment and the Frankenstein court. I enjoyed my time in her class.”

—Sean Nam ’22

Ms. Sara Brabec 

“To this day I still remember my first Political Discourse Advocacy Council meeting with a room full of tall seniors, but Ms. Brabec always made sure I was heard and I contributed to the group discussion. Ms. Brabec modeled to me what true leadership is, she was patient but had an objective. She always made sure everyone felt seen and heard. More importantly, Ms. Brabec has continued to push her students to support each other inside and outside of the classroom. She has pushed me to continue working in areas like racial justice and working with the greater Jesuit community to share ways on how to do social justice.”

—Alonso Lee ’22

Ms. Judi Brown

“Ms. Brown has always been a great teacher to have. [E]veryday she always tries to push us to be our best selves. I have her first thing in the morning, so I am not always engaged, but whenever she starts pushing us to do problems or go over homework, I instantly become engaged in the class. Because of her pushing us, it also helps me to prepare for the rest of the day.”

—Jackson Sloat ’23

Ms. Kasey Cardinale 

“I remember my sophomore year working with a small group of juniors and seniors in seeing how we could develop our group on mental health into a real club. Thanks to Ms. Cardinale’s wonderful leadership and making sure we made deadlines or meetings, we were able to develop our group into a real club this year called TeamCARE. She has been instrumental in my development into the philosophy of dialogue as a means of healing. She taught us that with so much we are going through intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally that it’s important to find strength in vulnerability.”

—Alonso Lee ’22

Ms. Gabriella Carroll

“My experiences with Ms. Carroll have been nothing short of amazing. I remember my sophomore year during the second to last week of school she brought her ukulele and took song requests and just played music to cheer us up before a stressful week of upcoming finals. Her overall infectious mood and cheerful aura radiate throughout the entire campus and her ability to brighten up the day of students and fellow faculty members is truly special.”

—Carlo Pedroncelli ’21

Ms. Julia Clark

“Ms. Clark is a hardworking staff member that does her best to support all of us. As the staff member of my freshman Companion Pod, she always brought positive energy and encouraged all of us to come together and develop a bond.”

—DJ Hoang ’21

Ms. Virginia Clemmens

“Ms. Clemmens is one of the most helpful people at Jesuit. I appreciate how she’s always there to lend a helping hand. She’s helped a lot this year with The Plank’s upcoming print edition and is a great asset to our school.”

—Joe Watanabe ’21

Ms. Annie Crew-Renzo 

“Thank you Ms. Crew-Renzo for always being there. For always being in a cheerful mood and ready to teach, even when the world seems like it has been flipped upside down. Thank you for helping me expand my spirituality and walk with Christ through spiritual exercises. You have made Theology one of my favorite classes.”

—Hunter Holloway ’21

Ms. Robin Cummings 

“Ms. Cummings is an amazing person to have on campus. Not only is she essential to Jesuit athletics, but she always greets me with a friendly conversation. She is very hardworking and emulates the best of Jesuit.” 

—Jake Hall ’21

Ms. Fabiana Davila-Viera

“While I’ve only worked with Ms. Davila-Viera through email, she has always been helpful and collaborative. I admire the work she’s done for Jesuit on social media, which is evidently done with care and thoughtfulness. I’m grateful for her guidance and look forward to collaborations to come.”

—George Sicner ’21

Dr. Fadia Desmond 

“Dr. Desmond is a warm and supportive person. Throughout my high school experience, she has assisted me and many others in achieving our goals, ensuring that we all reach our full potential. She listens intently to whatever ideas or problems arise and offers excellent insights and feedback. She’s also willing to put herself out there to ensure that our community benefits from change. Dr. Desmond is a dedicated and empowered role model who should be admired by all.”

—Adam Sherif ’22

Ms. Emma Doerfler 

“While I did not personally have Ms. Doerfler for a class, she had an invaluable presence for SR1G1. The care she has for her students is outstanding. She has a deep care for all of her students. She got the most out of my group for retreat, and I have no doubt that she gets the most out of her students as well.”

—Will Segale ’21

Ms. Antonia Doherty 

“When I think of Ms. Doherty, I think of a gentle teacher, tea lover, and tennis player. Ms. Doherty’s kindness paired with her love for math and tennis made Pre-Calculus Honors one of my favorite classes. As a tennis player myself, I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful teacher and leader in the math department.”

—Alex Chen ’21

Ms. Mary Friedman 

“Ms. Friedman consistently enthralls the rest of my class and me in her captivating lessons. She is able to take such a difficult subject and teach it in a way that is easy to learn and fun as well! Every class is something new so the class never feels monotonous. I’m so thankful to have such an amazing teacher for my last year at Jesuit.”

—Garrett Bruno ’21

Ms. Veronica Graffis

“Ms. Graffis is a good teacher because she helps the students when they need help. When she’s in the Academic Support Center, she helps kids with math and science. My favorite part about her is the way she teaches and how she comes and talks to students.”

—Daniel Krueger ’24

Ms. Angela Harger 

“Ms. Harger is an amazing person who has amazing gratitude. Her love in the counseling office is unmatched as she helped me become who I am today. She’s always had my back and wanted the best for me. I couldn’t imagine where I would be if it wasn’t for her seeing my amazing qualities I continued to overlook. Ms. Harger will always hold a special place in my heart; she is truly one of a kind.”

—Elijah Beverley ’21

Ms. Mary Harrison 

“Whenever I think of Ms. Harrison, I remember how hardworking, caring, and empathetic she is. You can always count on her if you have a problem with anything. She inspires me to work just as diligently as she does. Honestly, Jesuit wouldn’t be the same without her.”

—Damiano Ordonez ’21

Ms. Leah Heine

“Ms. Heine has been a huge positive influence in my high school education starting with freshman year. Ever since I involved myself with choir I’ve been accepted and encouraged by her to push myself in the subject and she has always been an uplifting person when walking around campus.”

  —JR Dusel ’21

Ms. Teresa Herrera

“I had Ms. Herrera for my Spanish 2 class last year and it was by far one of my favorite classes. Ms. Herrera is a kind and compassionate teacher, and you can tell instantly that she really cares about her students. Along with being a great teacher, she’s the current moderator for the Jesuit Young Progressives Club and she always helps us to foster a safe and open area to discuss our ideas and I really appreciate it.”

—Drew McDonald ’22

Ms. Wazhma Kakar

“The Jesuit campus would not be the same without Ms. Kakar’s compassionate and supportive presence. Whether it was helping me submit my transcripts when I was applying to college or just asking me how I was doing while I waited to meet with Mr. [Christopher] Seibert, her kindness always stood out to me during our interactions. If you haven’t already, get to know Ms. Kakar, because she’s really cool.”

—Donghwan Park ’20

Ms. Sarah Kelso 

“Ms. Kelso brings a level of energy and enthusiasm into the classroom that is truly unparalleled. Her passion and love for teaching are evident and make learning fun and engaging for her students. Ms. Kelso is a prime example of what it means to be a person for and with others.”

—Tommy Contreras ’22

Ms. Cheryl Kiyama

“Ms. Kiyama is an essential component to Jesuit Robotics, she manages everything the team does. She’s a great leader and teaches everyone so much about leadership, management, and life. I appreciate all her support from my time at Jesuit Robotics.”

—Joe Watanabe ’21

Dr. Katherine Madden 

“Since the first day of [photography] class, I have learned something new, each and every day. Of course there is the famous saying, ‘you learn something new every day,’ but it sure does help one learn if they have a great teacher. Dr. Madden is not only an amazing teacher, but she is very kind and understanding. I am very happy that I chose to take Dr. Madden’s class this year because I have learned more than I had hoped to about the art of photography.”

—Constantine Flesoras ’24

Ms. Sara Marks 

“When I first joined the volleyball team I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but right away Coach Marks made me feel comfortable and relaxed on the court. She taught me how to be a great teammate and how important it is to work hard at anything you do. Having her as my coach was such a blast and I will always be grateful for everything she has done for me.”

—Zach Schmidt ’21

Ms. Katie Maynard 

“Ms. Maynard — this year especially —has been able to guide my classmates through a tough year of being able to do service. Many of my classmates have been struggling with the concept of being to do service in a time when it may not be allowed. Thank you for being patient and understanding in these turbulent times.”

—Alonso Lee ’22

Ms. Heather McLean-Morris

“Ms. McLean-Morris is a kind, positive presence who is incredibly invested in her students’ success. She interweaves open and casual discussion with academia, often referencing relevant social issues. In doing so, she instills confidence in her students, widens their perspectives, and prepares them to be active leaders.”

—Santiago Chang ’21

Ms. Alma Morales

“I always look forward to every Spanish 3 class, it’s always a highlight of my day. Ms. Morales’ teaching style is really engaging, but most importantly she knows how to make a class fun.”

 —Drew McDonald ’22

Ms. Kimberly Pell 

“Although I haven’t known Ms. Pell for a long time, she has been one of the best teachers I have ever had. She explains every concept in detail and always makes sure that her students clearly understand her notes and lectures. Apart from her extraordinary teaching style, Ms. Pell’s positive and inclusive attitude makes for a comfortable and safe learning environment, where questions and clarifications are always welcomed and never shunned. And that’s what makes Ms. Pell an amazing teacher, and more so, an amazing person.”

—Isaias Iniguez-Sandoval ’21

Ms. Kristen Quillen

“Ms. Quillen is a great teacher. I like that she helps students when they need it and that she does her best to make sure each student is following along with what she’s teaching the class. She also has us do warm-up questions that have really helped me learn Spanish.”

—Daniel Krueger ’24

Ms. Jamie Ralph

“Ms. Ralph brings great energy to the campus and is a big help to all of the athletes dealing with injuries. Her job seems overwhelming at times, but Ms. Ralph always keeps a smile on her face.”

—Michael Chambers ’21

Ms. Jennifer Rasmussen

“Ms. Rasmussen helped me through the hardest times. She helped me find professional help to help me get through my academic struggles. She helped me pick out good colleges that would accept me for who I am.”

—Hunter Cameron ’21

Ms. Jennifer Riffle

“Ms. Riffle is very kind and helpful. She answers all the questions students have and helps with our weekly screening process. I cannot thank her enough for all the hard work she has done for us!”

—Richard Desmond ’23

Ms. Carol Rose

“Ms. Rose is a great teacher — a kind guardian for the students in the Academic Support Center (ASC). Out of her many qualities, her diligence and her compassion shine the brightest. When I helped in the ASC, I observed how deeply she cares. For with every action, every piece of advice, Ms. Rose did so with the students in mind. I think anyone can appreciate how vital she is to those in the ASC.”

—Dean Babb ’20

Ms. Elizabeth Sands

“Ms. Sands is one of the kindest and most helpful people on campus. I’ve seen this firsthand while working for the school newspaper as Ms. Sands is always willing to give us tips on how to improve our publication, and she does her best to allow our writers access to events. She’s someone you can reach out to if you need anything like a picture from a football game or information on something that’s happening on campus. Ms. Sands also does a lot of important behind-the-scenes work that not everyone gets to see. She’s one of the reasons Jesuit is such a special place.”

—Henry Krueger ’21

Ms. Amanda Smith 

“Ms. Smith is always super friendly and helpful. She’s always very supportive and easy to talk to. I am inspired by how hard she works and all that she does for us as students. I am really appreciative of how she always reminds me of how important it is to take care of myself and others.”

—Klarenz Basco ’22

Ms. Brooke Swanson

“Ms. Swanson is always so helpful in the training room. She takes care of the athletes and always preps us to play as healthy as possible. She shows genuine care for the student-athletes and makes us feel very safe.”

—Jake Hall ’21

Ms. Elizabeth Thompson

“Ms. Thompson is an incredible athletic trainer who always knows exactly how to assess a situation and give the best response. She stays poised in stressful times, especially since the training room can get so packed from time to time. She has kept many athletes safe again and again, and Jesuit athletics would not be the same without her.”

—Jake Hall ’21

Ms. Kathy Van Liefde

“Ms. Van Liefde is a kind and open-hearted person. As a counselor, she has helped me develop throughout my high school experience. Whenever we pass by each other, she greets my friends and me with a warm smile and wishes us well. Her ears are always open to listen to what we have to say, and always understanding of the situation. Whenever we converse, she provides her own personal insight and experiences, which creates a bonding relationship and makes me feel that a personal connection has been made.”

—Angelo Trajeco ’22

Ms. Margie Wagner

“I appreciate how Ms. Wagner brings a calm presence to any stressful situation. Whether I can’t log into PowerSchool or there’s an issue with my schedule, she’s there to help and assure me that everything will get sorted out. I admire her dedication toward helping students with a number of different issues.”

—Henry Krueger ’21

Ms. Emily Weinberger

“Ms. Weinberger was very open to questions about science — every question that could possibly relate to biology she felt really open to answering it. She gave insights to connect all aspects of biology to real-life scenarios.”

—Gabriel De La Torre ’21

Ms. Leslie Willson 

“Madame Willson is one of the kindest, most big-hearted people I’ve ever been honored to meet. Apart from the endless love in her heart, Madame’s multi-cultural and multi-faceted wisdom serves as a daily source of inspiration for me. She challenges me to never look at the world from one perspective, but instead, to view the Earth through the eyes of others, the poor, the affluent, the ostracized, the privileged, the fearless, and the fearful.”

—Isaias Iniguez-Sandoval ’21

Ms. Julia Yang

“Transferring from a high school that wasn’t very rigorous, Ms. Yang’s class taught me how to succeed in the new and much harder environment. Specifically, her class taught me how to study, to practice, to grind, and to have grit. Not only is she great academically, but her character is also stellar. This character includes being resilient, understanding, kind, and humorous. [W]hen I think of Ms. Yang, I think of a great teacher that shaped me academically while also being a great role model. Thank you, Ms. Yang.”

—Michael Raff ’20

Ms. Tristine Zanotto

“Ms. Zanotto is a lovely person, everyone can tell she loves her job by the way she shows up to every class and always has a smile on her face. She loves to help our classmates and always welcomes any student in need with guidance. I am grateful to have such a pleasant, joyous teacher giving guidance to our friends and classmates.”

—Derek Babb ’22 

From all of us at The Plank and the Jesuit community, we thank all the women faculty, staff, co-curricular leaders, and trustees at Jesuit for their work. To all the women who inspire, teach, support, and guide us, we are grateful.