New Math Teacher Stephen Stefanini : Community in Class


Photo by Natalie Munguia.

Some people know what they want to do at an early age. But in the case of new math teacher Stephen Stefanini, his interests have led him down a slightly varied career path.

As one of the newest additions to the Los Altos math department, Stefanini is already helping improve his students’ abilities in Algebra I and Trigonometry Honors.

Stefanini majored in Electrical Engineering at Santa Clara University. After graduating, he started coaching soccer and began working as an engineer in the semiconductor industry. Five years into his job as an engineer, Stefanini decided to change career paths and switched from the engineering field to the education field.

“I realized that I didn’t like going back to my cubicle after soccer practice ended,” Stefanini said. “It took me two years but I went back to Santa Clara University… I’ve been teaching ever since.”

Stefanini returned to his alma mater after leaving his job in the semiconductor industry to earn his teaching credentials. In addition, he earned a master’s in education with an emphasis in STEM. Stefanini has always shown an interest in math and appreciates the type of feedback given in math.

“I liked getting the feedback like ‘oh it’s right’ or ‘oh it’s wrong’ and changing it,” Stefanini said. “With other subjects, the feedback was longer. When you write an essay, you have to read it and it takes time to get that feedback, but in math it’s more like ‘here’s my problem, is it right or wrong?’ I really enjoy that.”

Before coming to Los Altos, Stefanini taught mathematics in East San Jose at Leyva Middle School and later at Independence High School. As Stefanini began his official teaching career, starting with seventh grade math, he continued to pursue his passion for soccer  through coaching. He has coached for teams at both Independence High School and Leyva Middle School and is also going to be the new coach for  the Los Altos boys’ frosh/soph soccer team.

Soccer is a key component of Stefanini’s life, and he started playing when he was just five-years-old. Several of his family members have played at the collegiate level.

“I love the dynamics of working with people of all different backgrounds and skills to achieve a common goal,” Stefanini said. “When on the soccer field, the rest of the world seems to fade away and nothing is more important than helping yourself and your teammates create something in real time. There are so many variables throughout the game, so many surprises, so much wonder, and on a great day, sometimes you get to be a part of magic.”

When not on the soccer field, Stefanini also enjoys hosting table-top game nights, also referred to as Eurogames, at his house with his friends. Eurogames are European-made board games and different from American board games. They involve conflicts over items in the game instead of between players and rely little on randomness or luck.

“It’s a lot of high-end strategy, more group play… It’s me and five friends against the game as opposed to me versus you versus you versus you. It’s much more team oriented,” Stefanini said.

All games aside, Stefanini is looking forward to his first year at Los Altos and applying the same group-oriented nature he enjoys in Eurogames to his classroom. The teamwork based goals of the Los Altos math department align well with the atmosphere Stefanini wanted to see between his students. It is this community-oriented mindset that Stefanini admires most about Los Altos.

“We have that community goal. We’re working on trying to enact it — trying to make it happen. We’re trying to discuss how to organize [course alignment], which I think is going to create a lot more academic achievement and opportunities for students going forward. It’s pretty exciting,” Stefanini said.

Stefanini is enthusiastic about his goals for his students this year. Along with coaching soccer and helping foster a community in his classroom, he is looks forward to helping his students expand their math skill set and prepare them to succeed in their future math courses.
“I can see progress being made already in the month that we’ve had of school and I can definitely say that there’s more to come.” Stefanini said.