“Facil? Okay, Cherubs, engage,” Herb Bocksnick says to his Geometry and Introduction to Analysis and Calculus classes as they practice solving math problems. With his Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions, high squeals and unique catchphrases, Bocksnick transforms mathematics into a entertaining departure from the monotony of school. Not all teachers can have such a close-knit friendship with their students and not all teachers refer to their students as “cherubs” — after all, not everyone can be a “Bocksnick.”
Montana born-and-bred, Bocksnick never imagined living in California, let alone for 16 years. Hailing from a family of teachers, Bocksnick entered the mathematics teaching program at the University of Montana; however, he encountered a major obstacle near the end of his senior year at college.
“Nobody [in Montana high schools] was hiring [teachers] that could only teach math; [teachers] had to teach multiple subjects,” Bocksnick says.
After deciding to check out the California section on a whim, Bocksnick was relieved to discover the demand for math teachers in California high schools. Despite his love for his home state, he decided to move to California with his wife.
“As long as I have my wife with me, I don’t really care where [I teach],” Bocksnick says.
Before coming to Palo Alto High School, he spent 12 years teaching at San Diego High School and Hollister High School, and coaching football at San Benito for 10 years. He notices a stark difference between the atmospheres of Paly and San Benito.
“The main difference is that it [San Benito] was a low performing school from an academic standpoint,” Bocksnick says. “Academic motivation was a bigger part of my job.”
In addition to teaching at the two high schools, Bocksnick taught a bilingual Pre-Algebra class that required him to learn Spanish in order to communicate with his students.
Bocksnick attributes his famous Spanish catchphrases to his experience of teaching in Spanish. Aside from Spanish, Bocksnick claims that his humorous sentences come from watching movies and stand-up comedians. The integration of life stories and student nicknaming in his teaching style allow Bocksnick to maintain a relaxing learning environment.
“He [Bocksnick] is always able to engage students in math,” says junior Joseph Kao and current Bocksnick student. “The environment in his class is never tense. … I probably will hardly ever find someone like him.”
Bocksnick tries to create friendships with students and stresses the importance of connecting with them on a deeper level.
“I really like working with your age group because I am able to use humor or sarcasm,” Bocksnick says. “At the end of the day, mathematics and education [are] important, but the most important thing is relationships.”