201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


Teachers, staff share tattoo stories

(Left to Right) Evan Shirk’s auditorium tattoo, Ryan Hertz’s dragon tattoo, and Kimberly Rodrigues’s fan, hibiscus, and plumeria tattoo. (Photos by Evan Shirk, Spike Lopez, and Josie Lee)

My kindergarten teacher had tattoos on her left arm. She hid them. We found out about them only because one day she turned up the heat too high and took off her cardigan. My middle school’s teachers and staff probably had tattoos, too, but they never showed them. Thus I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that staff at FUHS don’t hide their body art. Whether the culture at FUHS has changed or whether FUHS is changing the culture doesn’t matter: faculty and staff should be who they want to be. The Tribune is proud to share their tattoo tales.

Ryan Hertz, special education teacher

(Left to right) Ryan Hertz’s tattoos include a Chinese guardian foo-dog; Saint Michael; a dragon; a girl and boy holding hands with the quote “Crazy Love”; an eagle honoring his mother. (Bottom) Hertz has a dragon head tattooed on his left bicep. (Photos by Spike Lopez)

When special education teacher Ryan Hertz was 14 his neighbor, having learned tattooing in prison, used an ersatz tattoo gun made from a guitar string and Walkman motor to tattoo a picture of a punk flipping the bird on Hertz’s ankle. 

He views his choice of tattoo now as “very impulsive teenage stuff,” but Hertz was a punk rocker at the time. Still, he didn’t show off his tattoo, wearing pants or yanked-up socks. When Hertz was 19, his family went to the beach, and he couldn’t hide the tattoo from his mother.

“She said, ‘What is that?’ And I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m dead,’ and tried to say casually, ‘It’s just a tattoo.’ She said, ‘Wow,’ and that was it.”

Hertz would go on to play guitar in a punk rock band that toured the US and Europe where the offensive ankle tattoo was unimportant or went unmentioned.

When Hertz was 26, he started taking martial arts classes. During one workout, his instructor had to examine Hertz’s injured tattooed ankle. The resulting awkwardness convinced Hertz to get a coverup tattoo. He picked a Japanese-style eagle to honor his mother.

Since then, Hertz has acquired several standalone pieces and an extensive back piece.

David Shanebeck, social studies teacher

David Shanebeck has “Timshel” (center) written in Hebrew on his arm. (Right) He has Lord of the Rings symbols tattooed on his forearm. (Photos courtesy of Julie Martinez)

History teacher David Shanebeck (FUHS class of ‘02) doesn’t hide his tattoos. “Obviously, I don’t care what people think of them,” said Shanebeck, a 17-year classroom veteran.

On Shanebeck’s right bicep is a tattoo of the Hebrew phrase timshelthou mayest or you can in English—, a central idea in Steinbeck’s East of Eden (1952). “It reminds me not to make excuses for my actions,” Shanebeck said.

The inside of Shanebeck’s left forearm is a tattoo of the Seven Stars of Gondor and Aragon’s symbol, both from Tolkien’s Middle-earth series. The words Amid weeping there is joy, and under the shadow of death, light that endures from Tolkien’s Silmarillion (1977) surround the Stars and symbol. “It’s a light for me when I’m sad,” Shanebeck said. “The sword represents hope that maybe I can help forge a better future.”

Shanebeck’s AP US History teacher at FUHS Jeff Rupp (1953–2011) hid his tattoos but would show them off if asked. Rupp, a Vietnam War veteran and motorcycle enthusiast, would get a tattoo whenever he traveled somewhere new. Shanebeck credits Rupp for some of his own tattoo enthusiasm: While Shanebeck’s “generation is known for breaking the stigma” attached to tattoos, pioneers like Rupp led the way.

Tracy Mendell, instructional aide

Tracy Mendell has 13 tattoos which she has consistently collected since age 18. (Top left) A pumpkin; Harry Potter (Middle left) “Shine don’t burn” in Latin; “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”(Bottom left) LA with roses in memory of her tattoo artist; Captain America and Winter Soldier. (Photos courtesy of Tracy Mendell)

Instructional aide and substitute teacher Tracy Mendell has several tattoos, including some drawn from pop culture like Captain America’s shield and Harry Potter, but she covered them for job interviews.

“It was July. A hundred degrees. And I had on a long-sleeve cardigan,” she said. “I cleaned up real good. You wouldn’t even know I had them. But I was dying from the heat. Still, I didn’t want to not get a job because someone doesn’t like tattoos.”

Mendell has encountered some people who find her appearance unprofessional. She has trouble caring.

“People think I’m threatening or intimidating,” said Mendell, “but then they get to know me and realize I’m really smart. I went to Oxford. [My tattoos are] a lesson: don’t judge people by their appearances.”

Evan Shirk, auditorium director

Evan Shirk (FUHS class of ’93) is the technical director for the Fullerton Auditorium. His 2017 tattoo of the Auditorium commemorates his now-30-year tenure in his present position.
(Photo courtesy by Evan Shirk)

Katy Wren, social studies teacher

Social studies teacher Katy Wren’s tattoo of a wren on the inside of her wrist also includes the birth date of her twin children. Even at 39, Wren remains afraid of her traditional Mexican mother’s judgment about more tattoos: Her mother would “probably still kill” her if she got another, she said. (Photos by Katherine Martinez)

Kristen Cruz, science teacher

Science department co-chair and AP Biology teacher Kristen Cruz finds the human body and nature enthralling, and her tattoo demonstrates that enthusiasm.
“I really love succulents and flowers,” Cruz said, “The Joshua trees that are coming out of the top of the heart are actually from a photo when my husband and I were in Joshua Tree.” (Photos by Angelique De La Cruz)

Jacob Verkert, athletic trainer

Athletic trainer Jacob Verkert worked at many less understanding clinics before landing at FUHS. He intentionally got his tattoo on his leg so that it was easy to hide. “Coworkers with arm tattoos would have to wear sleeves,” Verkert said. “I didn’t want to deal with that.” (Photos by Conrad Jorgenson)

Cindy Ortiz, English teacher

Yearbook adviser and English teacher Cindy Ortiz has tattoos that celebrate her parents. A tattoo of her mother and father’s kamon, or Japanese family crest, on her leg was difficult.
“It was so close to my ankle I thought I was gonna pass out.” Ortiz said. “Childbirth was easier than parts of that tattoo.”
Ortiz wanted the tattoo where she could see it. However, she also wanted it where she could cover it because of her father.
“I don’t think my dad [who passed away] would have been a huge fan of [my tattoo] because in Japan the typical people that have tattoos are gangsters,” she said. “My family is Americanized, but my dad would still have been shocked.” (Photos by Spike Lopez)

Tarin Almstedt, speech and debate teacher

Speech and debate coach Tarin Almstedt recently got a tattoo to honor his seven years in the US Marine Corps. A tattoo of the USMC emblem graces the inside of his left forearm.
“The story goes that we stole the rope from the Army, the anchor from the Navy, the eagle from the Air Force,” said Almstedt, “and on the seventh day when God rested we overtook his perimeter and stole the globe.”
The emblem also bears the letters D and N, the initials of his sons Dane and Neal. (Photos by Mackenzie Mauldin)

Troy Trimble, band director

Band director Troy Trimble’s tattoos honor his departed loved ones. Plants on his upper bicep honor Trimble’s late youth pastor whose house was “a rainforest of exotic plants.” The tattoo is of his dog Rommel, a name suggested by his own high school band director’s imaginary dog. Thirty-two was Trimble’s father’s football and baseball jersey number in college. (Photos by Evelyn Ishikawa)

Jimmy Crouch, custodian

Custodian Jimmy Crouch’s tattoos honor his favorite sports teams. A California resident since childhood, Crouch’s tattoos show his support for the Lakers and the Dodgers. (Photos by Sammy Howell)

Miranda Rivera, registrar

Registrar Miranda Rivera helps students deal with records, files, and transcripts, and bears many small tattoos done by her husband and close friends. Her wrist has a moon that she dedicated to her daughter, and her ankle has a lotus flower representing rebirth and new beginnings. Her low tolerance for pain means that Rivera prefers small tattoos. (Photos by Josie Lee)

Kimberly Rodrigues, instructional aide

Instructional aide Kimberly Rodrigues’s tattoos were done by her close friend who is based in her home state of Hawaii. The fan and its waves and plumeria and hibiscus flowers are inspired by her state. The Mommy loves Brandon tattoo addresses her son, and the incomplete puzzle tattoo her son’s autism. A tattoo of the word unconditional tells the world the kind of love Rodrigues has for those close to her. (Photos by Josie Lee)

Staff writers Alyssa Corona, Angelique De La Cruz, Sophia Goldblatt, Sammy Howell, Evelyn Ishikawa, Conrad Jorgenson, Josie Lee, Kate Luengo, Katherine Martinez, Mackenzie Mauldin, Flora Nishigawara, Audrina Quinonez, Helen Sanders, and Elany Zavala contributed to this story.

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