Dedication, determination, and delight: Teacher gives all for students, finds reward in education

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 4:00 pm

“I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was nine years old, my mom bought me a chalkboard and we set it up in the garage. I made my brother and sister sit in the garage and do math problems and I was the teacher. I kind of forced myself upon them.”

For the past 27 years, AP English IV and IB English teacher Lisa Prejean has gotten to fulfill that passion for teaching. As Prejean has developed her teaching style, she noted how the higher-level programs, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB), pay off for high school students.

“The AP program is about teaching kids how to think and it is about getting college credit,” Prejean said. “The IB program is about more comprehensive stuff – it focuses not only on analytical things, but also on your ability to present and your ability to think on your feet when you do the oral [presentations]. The programs give different avenues to kids who want to take advanced courses and possibly gain college credit while in high school.”

Senior Emily Nash, a current student in Prejean’s AP English IV class, said that the work she has done in the class has helped to develop her skills in the English sector.

“Mrs. Prejean makes us do timed writings, which help us write under pressure, and afterward, she gives us good insight about our writing,” Nash said. “We read lots of material, such as Shakespeare and a lot of poetry. She teaches us techniques on how to read the material which help us to understand the [literary] works.”

Throughout their years of work, teachers administer essentially the same material every year. While it may seem like that task could get monotonous, Prejean said that the students make it enjoyable.

“If I was still in the field of education, but I couldn’t be in the classroom, I don’t think I would want to be in education,” Prejean said. “I don’t ever want to leave the classroom. That’s why I [teach]: the interactions and getting to know kids. The students all do things differently and they all see things differently.”

Although the students change every year and teachers get different insights from having new students, Prejean said that there is a downside to this cycle.

“I don’t always feel like I reach every single student,” Prejean said. “Sometimes, I wonder, ‘Do I do enough or say enough or critique enough to help that kid later?’ My end goal is that those students go to college and their English class – if they have to take one – is like a piece of cake.”

This year, Prejean has gotten to teach the IB English III course for the first time and describes how that experience has been a positive one for her as well as for the students.

“I feel like [my continued teaching of IB will] be able to put some continuity in place and it will probably help the program to have that,” Prejean said. “I’ve enjoyed teaching the junior class, and since I’ll have them another year, I know the things that I need to improve and I still get a whole other year to work on it.”

IB junior Perla Cruz has had the chance to partake in Prejean’s class this year and said that her mannerisms in the classroom help to make the difficult class enjoyable.

“Mrs. Prejean is humorable, dedicated, and intelligent,” Cruz said. “She wants us to succeed and you can tell that she really cares about her students.”

Another memorable aspect of this school year in particular for Prejean has been having some students for a second year, their first being for English II.

“One thing that I’ve enjoyed with my AP classes is that I have a lot of students in that class that I taught as 10th graders,” Prejean said. “I’m getting to see them as much more mature writers and people. Just seeing their growth from the time that I had them previously to the time that I have them now is nice for me to witness.”

As the English department chair, Prejean has the opportunity for more interaction with fellow educators, which helps her to better herself as a teacher.

“[The teachers] have invaluable ideas,” Prejean said. “[They are helpful] when I’m struggling with something or trying to think of another way that I can teach a lesson so it’s not so mundane and I can more easily attract the kids’ attention. I have a lot of people who I can go to or talk to.”

Many students want to go into education career wise, and Prejean has keen advice to those students who want to become teachers later in life.

“If you’re going to be a teacher in the future, you better be ready to be very organized and have a passion for what you’re doing – for not only your subject, but also your kids,” Prejean said. “If you have those things and you’re willing to put in the commitment, it’s one of the most rewarding professions I think there is.”

As this school year comes to a close and teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year, Prejean is most excited for the IB program to continue growing in future years.

“I am glad that [the school is] getting a reputation for having a strong quality of advanced programs,” Prejean said. “I’d like to see what kind of changes we can make to improve the education we give our students and how we can prepare them to go on to college or whatever they plan on doing later.”

Categories: Features