English teacher Matthew Valencich has seen the world. From his childhood to now, he’s experienced it all. From front row seats at London’s West End, to Kyoto, Japan, to Rio Americano High School.
“I lived in Sacramento, Carmichael, and Davis until I was nine years old. I moved to London when my mother married a stage actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company,” said Valencich.
The Royal Shakespeare company, as Valencich commonly points out in his English classes, is one of the four major Shakespearean companies, the others being in Ashland, Canada and England.
Growing up in London was a different experience than growing up here in Sacramento.
“I loved the freedom of growing up in London. Every summer my grandmother would get me a subway pass. The curfew that my mother enforced was ‘last train,’” said Valencich.
Valencich began his affinity for the English language in the ninth grade, when he fell in love with Shakespearean theater.
“Growing up in London and the efforts of my ninth grade teacher inspired my love of Shakespeare,” said Valencich. “He always had dirt cheap front row tickets to the West End, which was London’s equivalent to New York City’s broadway.”
After his experience in London, Valencich works to plan the annual trip to Ashland, Oregon. Securing discounts on seats at plays and housing for students, he works to keep the trip affordable.
“I just want to pay it back on the trip to Ashland and show students world class theater like I saw in London,” said Valencich.
This year students will be seeing “The Tempest,” “A Comedy of Errors,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and “Cocoanuts.”
London was an epicenter for new ideas to spread.
“There were the social movements, like the punk rock movement,” said Valencich. “I wasn’t really a part of it, but some of my classmates were.”
But not everything was peaches and cream, or bangers and biscuits in England.
“There were protests, like the American Air Force housing their nuclear missiles and weapons at british RAF bases,” Valencich said. “I marched on the Greenham Commons for British autonomy in deciding whether or not they should hold the missiles. I ran into Peter jennings and the ABC crew. It was a lively time, musically, culturally and politically.
After living in London, England, he attended Pomona College in Southern California.
“I earn my bachelors at Pomona in history,” said Valencich. “I chose history just because of the strength of the department.”
But it is his first adventure out of college that would be historic.
“My first job out of college was teaching english at IBM in Kyoto and Osaka in 1988 and 1989,” said Valencich. “You’ve got to understand that Japan in the late 80s was like it was here in the 1920s, in a boom.”
While there weren’t any flappers or bootleggers or grand Gatsby parties glorified by the recent fascination of the notorious era, there definitely was a lasting cultural impact.
“There were 45 million dollar Van Gogh’s hanging in lobbies,” said Valencich.
After his time in Japan he briefly lived in Seattle, Washington, before he realized that he thoroughly enjoyed teaching in Japan and wanted to continue here in the United States.
“I sold futons for a year in Seattle before i returned to Sac State to get my credentials for teaching,” Valencich said. “I knew that I wanted to be a teacher after the ninth grade because of inspiration of my teacher. I taught junior and senior high in Davis for 10 years.”
But Valencich has always had his sights on Rio.
“It is funny, while I was commuting from my house in midtown to Davis, I said that if I ever taught in Sacramento, it’d be at Rio Americano High School,” Valencich said. “I viewed Rio as comparable to Davis in terms of academically rigor. Now I am in my 7th year here at Rio.”
He is married with ceramics teacher Ms. Worley and they together raise their only child, Lilly, who has made an appearance at Rio basketball games and given the Rowdy Raiders a run for their money.
He’s here, in room A-07, teaching A.P. Literature and Composition and English II, ready to impart his knowledge that he’s gained through seeing and experiencing the world. All we have to do is listen.