Mr. James Suffern

Mr. James Suffern

English Teacher

Dear Student (yes, YOU), I think it’s only fair I tell you a bit about myself since I’ll be your English teacher. I grew up in Kentucky, the home of horse racing, college basketball, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. I haven’t lived there since I left for college but I do return home every year to see my family. My parents, and my brother and his family, live there, including my four year-old niece and ten-month old nephew.. I also have another four year-old niece who lives in New York, and a six year-old niece here in Los Angeles. She just started first grade yesterday, and she told me that she already has a new boyfriend. That was fast. I’ve been an English teacher for 13 years now. I’ve worked in schools in North Carolina, Michigan, and New York, before coming out here to LA. The majority of my teaching career was at a school in New York City, in Queens. Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, and our school reflected that diversity. When I came to Bernstein High School last year, I was a little worried that I would miss all that diversity. But guess what? I felt at home here very quickly because Bernstein students are so kind. Really, I’ve never been around sweeter students than the ones here. I really do love my job, and I think you’ll see quickly--if you don’t already know me-- that I want my students to grow every day. I expect a lot out of each of you, but I also want you to have fun while we’re working together. I’m very excited about teaching our new screenwriting class offered in the Cinematic Arts and Creative Technologies Magnet. I can remember the first movie I saw in the theater: my mom took my sister and me to see E.T. I was four years old at the time. Ever since that day, when E.T. struggled to find his way back to his home planet, I’ve been interested in how stories work: what makes a memorable one, how do we tell a story that people will be fascinated by? I wrote stories and poems in high school, and when I left home for college, I decided I would become a playwright. But my plans changed quickly when I realized my real love was writing fiction. That’s where my energy went for years. About ten years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to write a screenplay with him--I said, “Why not?” Over the course of several weeks, we met every day and wrote the script together. Perhaps one day someone will buy it and you can see my movie on the big screen. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for a little over three years now. My wife is from here, and we relocated to her hometown when she found a great job out here. And then, a little over two years ago we welcomed our first child, Joaquin, into the world. He celebrated his 2nd birthday over the summer. I know it’s a cliche to say this, but he really is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a parent, because I believe if someone does not want to have kids, that is certainly their right. But I have found in the last couple of years a new joy that I did not know before becoming a dad. In my spare time, I love to read just about anything. My favorite sports to play are tennis, basketball, and I love riding my bicycle, although I’ll be honest, I find it difficult here in Los Angeles. There are so many drivers who are not paying attention to cyclists. I also love to cook--believe it or not, I do almost all of the cooking for our family. It’s either me or my suegra. People ask me what I like to cook and the truth is, just about anything. And don’t get the wrong idea: I may be skinny, but I can eat. If you or someone else ever makes something at home and there’s a little extra, don’t be afraid to bring in a plate for Mr. Suffern! Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about me. Now it’s your turn. I cannot wait to learn about you.

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Helen Bernstein High School

1309 N Wilton Pl
Los Angeles, CA 90028