Common Intellectual Mission

High Tech High makes no distinction between "college prep" and "technical" education; the program qualifies all  students for college and success in the world of work. Enrollment is non-selective, and there is no tracking at HTH. The curriculum is rigorous, providing the foundation for entry and success at the University of California and elsewhere. Assessment is performance-based: all students develop projects, solve problems, and present findings to community panels. All students are required to complete an academic internship, a substantial senior project, and a personal digital portfolio. Teacher teams have ample planning time to devise integrated projects, common rubrics for assessment, and common rituals by which all students demonstrate their learning and progress toward graduation.

Teacher As Designer

High Tech High teachers work in interdisciplinary teams to develop the program for 50-70 students per team. The schedule accommodates team teaching, common planning time, project-based learning, work-based learning, and other regular interaction with the outside world.


Each student at HTH has a staff advisor, who monitors the student’s personal and academic development and serves as the point of contact for the family.  Students pursue personal interests through projects. They compile and present their best work in personal digital portfolios. Students with special needs receive individual attention in a full inclusion model. Facilities are tailored to individual and small-group learning, including networked wireless laptops, project rooms for hands-on activities and exhibition spaces for individual work.

Adult-World Connection 

HTH students experience some of their best learning outside the school walls. Juniors complete a semester-long academic internship in a local business or agency. Seniors develop substantial projects that enable them to learn while working on problems of interest and concern in the community. Earlier, in 9th and 10th grade as well as middle school, students may "shadow" an adult through a workday, perform community service in a group project, or engage in “power lunches” with outside adults on issues of interest. The HTH facilities themselves have a distinctive high-tech "workplace" feel, with windowed seminar rooms, small-group learning and project areas, laboratories equipped with the latest technology, ubiquitous wireless laptop access, and common areas where artwork and prototypes are displayed.
The design principles permeate every aspect of life at High Tech High: the small size of the school, the openness of the facilities, the personalization through advisory, the emphasis on integrated, project-based learning and student exhibitions, the requirement that all students complete internships in the community, and the provision of ample planning time for teacher teams during the work day. We discuss each design principle in turn below.
High Tech High has distilled the six NUHS design principles to three: personalization, adult world connection, and common intellectual mission.  Responding directly to the needs of students, all three principles connect to the broad mission of preparation for the adult world. Moreover, all three call for structures and practices that schools do not now routinely employ. High Tech High has also created a more recent design principle, known as teacher as designer.
The roots of the High Tech High program and curriculum lie in earlier work of Larry Rosenstock and colleagues in the New Urban High School Project (NUHS), an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, 1996-99. The aim was to select, study, and assist six inner-city high schools that were using school-to-work strategies, such as internships and other forms of field work, as a lever for whole-school change.  The findings were summarized in a practitioner’s guide and a high school planning guide centered on six design principles.
From January 1999 to the opening of the Gary & Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High in September of 2000, Rosenstock and the founding group, led by Gary Jacobs, worked in tandem. Rosenstock located a site, prepared the charter application, hired staff, and oversaw the development of the program, while Jacobs and the business community took the lead in addressing issues of financing and facilities development.
In late 1998 the group voted to start a charter school and engaged Larry Rosenstock, then President of Price Charities in San Diego, as the founding principal. The founding group was clear about its intent: to create a school where students would be passionate about learning and would acquire the basic skills of work and citizenship. Rosenstock, a former carpentry teacher, lawyer, and high school principal who had recently directed the U.S. Department of Education’s New Urban High School project, brought a vision and a sense of the design principles by which this mission might be accomplished (see Design Principles)
High Tech High was originally conceived by a group of about 40 civic and high tech industry leaders in San Diego, assembled by the Economic Development Corporation and the Business Roundtable, who met regularly in 1996-98 to discuss the challenge of finding qualified individuals for the high-tech work force. In particular, members were concerned about the “digital divide” that resulted in low numbers of women and ethnic minority groups entering the fields of math, science, and engineering. Gary Jacobs, Director of Education Programs at Qualcomm, and Kay Davis, Director of the Business Roundtable, were key participants in these discussions.
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Mark Aguirre
Humanities || 9th
619-243-5024 ||
Digital Portfolio

Mark has been teaching Humanities at High Tech High since 2001. He began his teaching career at Point Loma High School and Scripps Ranch High School.

Raised in the small town of Fillmore, California where his family raised oranges, Mark is the oldest of ten children. He graduated from Cal State-Chico where he received his bachelor’s degree in history, with the focus being on Classical Civilizations. In 1987, he earned his teaching credential from San Diego State.

Mark has three children- Joshua a postman in Denver, Jacob a contractor in Lake Havasu and Jessica a student at Smith and two grandchildren. His passions include playing poker, reading books about classical history and listening to be-bop jazz.

David Berggren
Engineering || 12th
619-243-5043 ||
Digital Portfolio

Born and raised in San Diego, David graduated from Point Loma High School and attended the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, CA where he graduated with a BS in Marine Engineering Technology, a minor in Computer Science and an Unlimited Horsepower USCG 3rd Assistant Engineers License.

An avid seaman, David has fished all over the North and South Pacific for Albacore tuna aboard a 90 ft. fishing vessel built by his father, worked on three different factory trawlers in the Bering Sea as a 1st Assistant Engineer, and, also with his father, built a 58 ft. steel salmon fishing boat. David began working at High Tech High in the fall of 2001 as an Engineering Instructor.

He launched High Tech High’s FIRST Robotics team in 2004 which has grown to achieve national recognition. David holds a California Designated Subjects credential in Engineering Occupations.

Robert Bussell
Math|Physics || 9th
Digital Portfolio

Amy Callahan
Math || 11th
619-243-5012 ||
Digital Portfolio

Amy earned her Bachelor's of Science in Mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin, then taught at Travis High School in Austin for 2 1/2 years.

She then moved to Berkeley, California, where she stayed home with her first son and wrote math curriculum part-time. After 1 1/2 years in the Bay Area, Amy moved to San Diego and continued to stay home with her two sons, Harrison and Quentin.

Amy taught mathematics at Grossmont Community College in the summer and fall of 2005. She joined the High Tech High community in January 2006.

Aaron Commerson
Math|Physics || 9th
619-243-5000 || acommerson
Digital Portfolio

Aaron was born and raised in Rochester, Michigan.

He attended Michigan State University before deciding that cold weather was an unnecessary burden and moved to Southern Florida to finish college. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Florida Atlantic University along with his teaching credential. After graduation, he moved to San Diego where he has been teaching since 1999.

Aaron lives in Clairemont with his wife Tracy and son Parker.

Julio Delgado
Spanish || 10th
Digital Portfolio

My name is Julio Delgado and I am a Spanish teacher at High Tech High. I have an undergraduate degree in education and Spanish literature from the National University of El Salvador. I also have a California credential to teach literature and Spanish language at a high school level and two years of graduate courses in Special Education. I have taught bilingual elementary school for almost five years and Spanish language and literature at a high school in Los Angeles. I also have over 10 years experience coaching soccer, from my children's teams to a varsity high school team.

Before becoming a teacher I had the privelege to work with many different communities. In college, I designed and implemented a literacy project for adults and children in a Mayan community in El Salvador. I also conducted an oral history project about the struggles of refugees fleeing from a war zone within El Salvador.

As a member of the Central American Refugee Comittee in Los Angeles, I traveled across the US participating in a national educational campaign for peace and human rights in Central America. Also, I have worked in a homeless children's shelter for the International Human Rights Center in Los Angeles and worked with adults with severe disabilities as an independent leaving skills coach in San Francisco.

Anne Duffy
Math|Science || 10th
Digital Portfolio

I grew up in Denmark but have lived in the San Diego area since 1989. I received my Bachelor's degree in chemistry from UCSD. After acting as an undergraduate teaching assistant at UCSD, I fell in love with teaching. I chose to stall my doctoral degree in chemistry and pursue a Master's degree in chemistry (also at UCSD) while researching teaching options at various levels.

Upon completing my Master’s, I went to what my chemistry lab colleagues called “the dark side” when I chose to pursue a doctoral degree in math and science education instead of organic chemistry. I have been teaching in various capacities since 1995 with ages ranging from Kindergarten science outreach, 4th and 5th grade math enrichment to organic chemistry students in college.

I know that I have found a satisfying career not just because I love teaching math and science at all levels but because I would do it for free. Shh. That’s our little secret.