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The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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History teacher of 23 years set to retire

Motoko Iwata
Jack Bungarden, longtime history teacher at Palo Alto High School, gives a lecture in AP US History. Bungarden will be retiring after 22 years of working as a teacher at the school. According to Bungarden, the connection with students even after their time in his classroom makes his day. “It is an enormous gift to spend 30 seconds and send an email because we never know,” Bungarden said. “We have you for a year, then we send you off into the ether to hopefully do good things.”

History may be boring to many, but never in Jack Bungarden’s AP US History class at Palo Alto High School.

Bungarden — who is retiring after 23 years of teaching at Paly — is known for his distinct style of teaching, from referencing sports analogies in the middle of history lectures to blasting Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” song on loop before unit tests.

In his decades-long career, Bungarden has taught a range of social studies classes, including APUSH, Contemporary World History, Foreign Policy, Economics, Government and Sociology. The academic challenge of his curriculum is well-known, as he teaches one of the most rigorous classes offered at the school — APUSH.

“It is a challenging class by any metric,” Bungarden said. “Most kids don’t sign up for it because it’s hard.”

According to Bungarden, the students who grow and persevere stand out as highlights in his teaching career.

“A remarkable number [of students] stay, and they put their heads down and they just work and they’re impressive to watch — to watch them learn, watch them deal with the challenge,” Bungarden said. “I get to watch that phenomenon every year. That is the best part of teaching.”

As Bungarden’s career comes to an end, his legacy and impact on students will not. According to junior Holden Lee, currently taking APUSH, Bungarden’s teaching style uniquely shapes the class experience.

“At the beginning of this year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Lee said. “The class definitely has been rigorous, but it’s simultaneously been one of my favorite classes. He just really creates a fast-paced environment, but it’s also a good learning environment. He does a good job at livening up the the lectures and making you push even though it’s a hard class. It’s a pretty fun class and I’m really glad that I took it this year.”

According to junior Llew Ladomirak, who took Foreign Policy with Bungarden and plans to study international relations at New York University, the class significantly shaped her career path.

“It [foreign policy] was a very hard course,” Ladomirak said. “He taught it extremely well. I took it on a whim, and it’s what got me into international relations, it’s why I want to study it. It was a very hard class … but I think it was very valuable, it taught me how to write research papers really well, and it got me interested in the world.”

According to Bungarden, Paly’s social sciences teachers share a good work ethic, dedicating themselves entirely to the students.

“They are bright and they work really hard,” Bungarden said. “They are intensely, intensely focused on student outcomes and how to improve the learning and the knowledge that we attempt to impart. I mean, it’s not just only they’re good teachers, but they’re good colleagues and good folks to be around. The other adults on this campus are of comparable quality.”

Freshmen World History teacher Steve Sabbag has been Bungarden’s colleagues for over a decade. Sabbag said he felt inspired by Bungarden.

“He’s amazing, he’s a role model for me,” Sabbag said. “I want my students to be able to succeed in his classes two years down the road.” 

 Bungarden said he still keeps in touch with several of his students and occasionally follows up with their careers.

“I’m still in contact with a couple of students that I had 16 years ago,” Bungarden said. “I got an email last week from a former student during my first year here. She’s an educator now — a very successful one — and she sent me an email last week, thanking me.”

Bungarden said that he will miss working at Paly and being a teacher.

“The student body is a pretty remarkable group of kids,” Bungarden said. “They’re pretty easy to teach and pretty easy to be around. I’m going to miss the kids and teaching a lot.”

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About the Contributors
Motoko Iwata
Motoko Iwata, Opinion/Editorial Editor
Motoko Iwata (Class of 2026) joined The Voice in her sophomore year. At Paly, she does badminton and debate. In her free time, Motoko enjoys spending time with her friends and reading about current events.
Kristine Lin
Kristine Lin, Managing Editor
Kristine Lin (Class of 2025) joined The Paly Voice her sophomore year. Outside of journalism, she enjoys going on scenic hikes, taking road trips, and traveling to new places.

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