Paly welcomes three new math teachers

Liana Pickrell, Author

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William Friebel, Cynthia Chen and Sharla Orr (left to right) are new teachers in the Math Department at Palo Alto High School. Friebel, a Paly grad, is glad to be teaching at his high school alma mater. Chen, also a PAUSD alum, has most recently taught at Leland in San Jose. Orr, from Texas, is happy to be back in her home state. Photos by Lizzie Chun and Liana Pickrell.

William Friebel, Cynthia Chen and Sharla Orr (left to right) are new teachers in the Math Department at Palo Alto High School. Friebel, a Paly grad, is glad to be teaching at his high school alma mater. Chen, also a PAUSD alum, has most recently taught at Leland in San Jose. Orr, from Texas, is happy to be back in her home state. Photos by Lizzie Chun and Liana Pickrell.

Three teachers joined Palo Alto High School’s Math Department this year, all returning closer to home.

Cynthia Chen, William Friebel and Sharla Orr arrived this year to fill empty positions in the department.

Chen teaches Geometry A and Trigonometry/Analytic Geometry H, Friebel teaches Algebra 1 and Algebra 2/Trigonometry A and Orr teaches Algebra 1A and Algebra 2.

Since graduating from University of California at Los Angeles, Chen has taught for four years in both Japan and at Leland High School in San Jose, she said.

Friebel previously taught Algebra 1 and Honors Geometry at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara. Most recently, he worked at Orchard School, a K-8 school in San Jose, teaching Algebra 1 to eighth graders, he said.

Orr, who grew up in Antioch, and subsequently taught there for seven years, felt the need to move closer to her childhood home after teaching in Texas for eight years.

“I needed to get out of Texas and come back to California,” she said.

As a Paly graduate, Friebel is delighted to be back to the district.

“It’s a great group of students [and a] great community, both with the staff and with the school as a whole,” Friebel said.

Having graduated from Gunn High School, Chen also wanted to return to Palo Alto and is excited to work in the collaborative environment at Paly.

“I’m eager to be exposed to everything that Paly has to offer,” Chen said.

Friebel is enthusiastic about the school spirit and is glad to be working at the same school with his longtime friend Matt Hall, the school’s student activities director.

“We’re good friends from way back when and we were juggling buddies, so I’m happy to get involved with some more student activities,” Friebel said. “You’ll probably see me out doing some Juggling Club stuff with him.”

Orr is excited for the new experience of working with Paly students.

“I feel like I can grow as a teacher because of the different caliber of students,” she said. “I can push them a little bit harder than I’m used to.”

Outside of the classroom Chen enjoys traveling, rock climbing and hiking. She used to participate in triathlons and has hiked Mount Fuji in Japan.

Friebel shares Chen’s passion for rock climbing.

“[To] anyone who has rock climbed, you’ll probably see me at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale,” Friebel said. “I go usually three times a week.”

Orr has two college-aged kids and cites learning as her favorite aspect of teaching.

“I like to learn,” Orr said. “No matter what, every single year, I learn something new – usually it’s from students. I think once I stop learning, I’ll probably stop teaching.”