Student Journalism at San Rafael High School

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Off the Leash

Dr Sulem Inspires Students to Feel Better About Themselves  


The 2023 school year at San Rafael High School introduced a new teacher into the Social Studies department, Evelyn Sulem. Dr. Sulem is among one of the few Hispanic teachers in the school’s community who teaches Economics, AP Government and Politics, and World History. From the few months she has been teaching at SRHS, she has already made multiple bonds with her students. You can find Dr. Sulem welcoming everyone into her comfortable and positive-filled classroom where she greets everyone with a big bright smile.

Dr. Sulem was born in Mexico City to young parents. She grew up being an only child but tended to be surrounded by many family members and most of the time, left with her grandparents because her parents continued their studies while at the same time raising her. She grew up being a good student in school and loved education. She was a very happy child with all the love she received from her grandma, which she then used to love others the same way. She also always knew that she was destined for a successful life. “I like families,” she said. “I definitely thought that somehow one day, I would have a family […] I just thought I would have a happy life with a career.” 

On some Saturdays when living in Mexico, she would accompany her dad, who was an accountant and at the same time teaching small workshops, to his mini classes. “I really enjoyed seeing my dad teaching,” she said. Seeing one of her loved ones do something they liked developed her interest in education and wanting to become a professor even more.

At the age of 22 her lifestyle in Mexico came to an end. Dr. Sulem’s parents wanted their daughter to thrive so they decided to send her to study abroad in Australia. Before traveling to Australia, she had never been out of Mexico. This movement inspired her to want to study abroad more. She applied to a scholarship where she would study in Germany for four years. While in Germany, she learned the language and was studying for a Masters in Economics and Political Science. At this same time, imaginations were becoming reality. She met her boyfriend who later on became her husband. As they got to know each other more they moved back to England where her husband is from. Her studies did not stop in Germany, she continued to study in England. In England she studied for a PhD and at the same time worked in teaching at an undergraduate university. 

In 2010, she and her husband decided to move out of Europe and to California, where their official stay would begin. When they first moved to California, they lived in Mountain View.

 Her move to the United States was a drastic change not only because it was across the world, but because she started to gain a deeper realization that she was a woman of color with “out of the ordinary” accomplishments in a land that overlooks Hispanics. When she tends to tell people she is a Hispanic woman from Mexico with a PhD and the occupation of a teacher, some people don’t believe her and she feels as if she has to constantly prove herself. “Some people don’t really believe me […] people are not used to seeing people like me doing what I’m doing […] I didn’t expect that here.” 

From Montebello she moved to Marin County and began teaching for the San Francisco Unified School District at Abraham Lincoln High School. At this school she was in the Social Studies Department where the majority of her students were mainly Asians, African Americans and White. She enjoyed teaching her students of the many backgrounds they came from, but wished she could have been surrounded by students who looked like her and in some ways related to her as a Hispanic person. On top of this, the school had some administrative problems that led her into wanting to change districts. 

For a fresh start, she decided to apply to SRHS which was closer to home. Once she applied, she was awaited with an interview and the day after she was hired as a teacher. She was offered to continue teaching the subjects she taught at her previous school since a former teacher in the Social Studies department teaching the exact same subjects had left. 

When I asked a few teachers in the Social Studies Department their first thoughts on Dr. Sulem, they had nothing but good news to share. “She was really friendly and had a happy personality,” said Justine Kuehle. 

“Our department was looking for an AP teacher, and are very excited that Dr. Sulem has experience teaching AP Government. She is a solutions-oriented collaborative teacher who makes positive contributions to our department meetings. She speaks Spanish, which is an incredible asset for our department, our students, and our families,” said Stacey Farrell. 

When starting the new school year, Dr. Sulem was impressed to see how well-run the school was and the number of Hispanic students that attend. “It’s the first time I’ve worked in a place with a majority of Latinx students […] finally the students look like me and I look like the students, which makes me feel comfortable.” 

With Dr. Sulem being one of the few Hispanic history teachers, one of her classes consists of mainly English language learners learning about the country they have moved to. It seems to be that she mostly relates to this group of students, as she was once new to this country, and she is now making these students feel comfortable through having similar experiences. She enjoys knowing that she is teaching her students new vocabulary and new historical events that have happened on the territory they are now starting new lives on.

Sitting in one of her advisory classes, I noticed that a lot of Spanish-speaking students and newcomer students were in the room as well, either by choice or not. Even so, the classroom seemed to be filled with positivity and students seemed to be enjoying the presence of a teacher they can finally relate to. The bonds she had with many of those students seems to be as if the whole group had known each other forever. Students seem to really trust her since they were talking to her about their personal problems and she gave them advice on the certain problems they were facing. 

One of the students in that room had mentioned that she had an upcoming job interview which she was nervous about. Dr. Sulem offered to guide her in practicing what she would be saying throughout her interview as the students first language is Spanish. Not only was she helping, but she was encouraging the student with words of positivity and ensuring she would get the outcome she wanted. 

A senior at SRHS, Gabby Alvarado, who is in Dr. Sulem’s Economics class, spoke highly about her as well, “She gives us an example of knowing Hispanics can be as successful as any other. She was able to succeed no matter what race you come from.” 

Since the start of the new school year, it seems to be that SRHS students and staff have come to truly appreciate having a new Hispanic teacher who can inspire and help out in the community. She has come to be a big inspiration and role model for students knowing that dreams can come true. 

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    Isabel SonnebornNov 30, 2023 at 8:35 pm

    I agree the Dr. Sulem is such a great addition to the SRHS community and I enjoyed learning more about her story!