September 13, 2016

Back to school: Celebrating our teachers

School is back in session and with a new academic year ahead of us, what better time to showcase our dedicated team of educators. Hailing from the Tiger Woods Learning Centers in both Anaheim, California, and Washington, D.C., our learning facilitators use innovative STEM curriculum to offer their students a unique learning experience every time they enter the classroom. They not only embody the spirit of our hands-on, inquiry-based programs, but they bring the programs to life. Meet our remarkable teachers and learn more about what fuels their passion for educating. 

Holly Dennard – Lead Instructor  

Our newest member of the team, Holly Dennard joined Anaheim’s Learning Center this summer and teaches marine, forensic and universal science to students while also leading teacher professional development classes. TWLC’s commitment to providing project-based learning to students, as well as equipping them with the tools they need to excel in life, truly resonates with Dennard. 

“I love teaching because I enjoy seeing the excitement and joy on students’ faces as they conquer new challenges. I find it very rewarding to be a part of a new door that has opened for a student as they discover something about themselves or the world around them.”

Ian Esmilla – Learning Facilitator 

Whether Ian Esmilla is teaching robotics or leading his students through a course in urban planning during his Communities of Tomorrow class, his goal remains the same: giving underserved youth the opportunity to explore careers that they would have never thought about before.

“When I first started here, I challenged a group of engineering students to create a Teck Deck skateboard ramp out of balsa wood and cardboard,” Esmilla said. “Watching them play with the Teck Deck skateboards on their finished ramp was my favorite teaching moment. Being able to lead a group of young people toward a common goal is what keeps me passionate about teaching.” 

John Foster – Lead Instructor  

John Foster brings innovative STEM curriculum to fifth graders during his universal science, marine science and forensic science classes. He brings that same passion to the table when he teaches teachers during his science and engineering professional development classes.

“Kids ask interesting questions about their world, and I really enjoy it when a student makes the connection with what I’m teaching and their own life,” Foster said. “I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with others and helping them understand the world around them. But what I love most about the Tiger Woods Learning Center philosophy is that we see that all students have a contribution to make, and we work to help them get to the place where they can make it.”

Roman Gonzales – Director of Golf 

Roman Gonzales has been a fixture on the golf greens at Anaheim’s Learning Center for over a decade, teaching the fundamentals of golf and the physics of the golf swing while also introducing students to careers in the golf industry. 

“We experience a teachable moment everyday here,” Gonzales said. “Students never know what to expect from our facilitators because our curriculum and teaching styles are innovative, dynamic and hands-on. I really enjoy exposing students to the many different careers in the golf industry from agronomy to club design, and love seeing the gears turn in their minds when they learn something new and then realize what they can do with their newfound knowledge. And teaching the students about the game of golf is the icing on the cake!”

Thomas Hailu – Learning Facilitator 

From rocketry and robotics to video production and graphic design, Thomas Hailu has taught a number of classes out of the Learning Center in D.C. over the years. Drawing from both the opportunities he had and didn’t have as a child, Hailu aspires to help young scholars achieve their potential and expose them to professions they never thought they could pursue. 

“One of my most significant teaching moments was after my first couple years of teaching,” Hailu said. “I received a phone call from a number I did not recognize. It was one of my former students who was attending school at Delaware State University. He was thrilled that he was graduating on time and was really proud of his accomplishments and had asked me if I could attend his graduation. I have never been so honored in my life, and I was also supremely happy for everything that he had done.”

Doug Luong – Learning Facilitator 
With a schedule that includes teaching both marine and forensic science as well as video game design, Doug Luong finds fulfillment in sharing his knowledge and experience with young people and, in turn, contributing to the next generation. His own methodology aligns with TWLC’s philosophy of open mindedness, encouraging others to think differently and find innovative ways to help young people reach their potential.
“Ms. Trinh, my high school geometry teacher, was the one who inspired me to become a teacher,” Doug Luong said. “She didn’t just teach me math, but she taught me about life. She was my mentor. And now, for me, any time one of my students makes the connection to the lesson and experiences an ‘aha’ moment, seeing their light bulb go on validates why I am still teaching.”

Manny Luong – Learning Facilitator

With his passion for computer programming and design, Manny Luong teaches graphic design, video production and video game design at the Learning Center in Anaheim. Out of the Lenovo Learning Lab, Luong introduces his students to software and tools that they’d rarely find at their high schools. 

“I love being an instructor because I enjoy seeing the kids’ faces glow when they learn something new,” Manny Luong said. “The gleam in their eyes is priceless. It inspires me when they want to learn more. My passion comes from knowing I am making a difference in kids’ lives. I love the idea that kids matter and they can make a difference in the world.”

Ashley Marinez – Learning Facilitator 

For Ashely Marinez, who teaches forensic science, hip-hop, urban planning and nutrition and fitness, her passion is fueled every time she sees a former student achieve his or her goal. Knowing that she played a part in their success reinforces her love of teaching. 

“My passion for working with kids goes back to when I was just finishing up college and I started coaching,” Marinez said. “I realized that I not only enjoyed working with kids, but it was something I was good at. I love being an instructor because it gives me the opportunity to mold the minds of our scholars. Being an instructor gives me the opportunity to develop these specific skills and assets with my students, opening the door to endless possibilities for them. What I love most about the Tiger Woods Learning Center philosophy is that it provides students with confidence, courage and pathways to endless possibilities.”

Mark McGlone – Learning Facilitator 

For Mark McGlone, the Tiger Woods Learning Center’s philosophy of experimentation has allowed him to not worry about failure and try new things when teaching his students. Currently focusing on video game design, McGlone has also taught robotics, video production, forensic science, video journalism and stop-go animation out of the TWLC in D.C. 

“I get the opportunity to work with incredibly inspiring youth, and they have the potential to improve not just their own lives, but the lives of all of society, and I want to help them realize that potential,” McGlone said.

Nick Novak – Learning Facilitator 

In the classroom, Nick Novak strives to show his students that “learning and fun are not mutually exclusive, while instilling wonder, curiosity and an explorer’s spirit.” From his forensic and marine science classes to chemistry and preparing students for college and teaching careers, Novak’s goal is to provide support and establish expectations for young people. 
“A touching moment for me was when a TWLC student had his bike stolen,” Novak said. “The TWLC Staff came together and purchased him a new bike with a sturdy lock. The look on his face when we presented the bike to him was indescribable. Lock your bike, Edgar!”

Melisa San Agustin – Learning Facilitator 

Melissa San Agustin’s life goal is to “change the world.” Whether she’s leading a fifth-grade forensic or marine science class or teaching tomorrow’s engineers in her wearable electronics or Pathways Lab classes, San Agustin’s personal passion comes from her students’ success. 

“I love being an instructor, because I’m part of an amazing journey of discovery in my students’ lives,” San Agustin said. “The discovery that there really is light at the end of a tunnel and that when things seem hopeless and even darker, I’ll be there to provide them with a flashlight of encouragement until they can see the light again. During the 10 years of my career at the Tiger Woods Foundation, one of the most amazing things is realizing that no two paths are ever the same for my students. The best part of my job is seeing these resilient individuals overcome adversity, while also being remarkable young people who are determined to be something awesome. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today if it weren’t for every single one of the students that have come into my life. They have taught me so much about kindness, perseverance and happiness. My students enrich my life and truly are my inspiration!”
Brian Suk – Golf Coordinator 

Brian Suk, who played professionally on the Asian Tour before joining the golf department at Anaheim’s Learning Center, brings together the basics of the game of golf while building discipline in young athletes. 

“Growing up I had a lot of people support me and give me knowledge on not just the game of golf but life, and I would love to give what I’ve learned back to the younger generation,” Suk said. “Having the opportunity to teach the sport I love to kids that have never experienced the sport means so much to me. Watching a new student hit the ball in the air and seeing their face is priceless.”

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.