Canyon Springs Alternative High School staff hosted Idaho’s first Alternative School Leaders Network meeting on their campus in Caldwell, Idaho on October 15th. CSAHS teacher Jessica Figueroa was in charge of explaining the logistics and bright spots of CSAHS’s after-school tutoring program to attendees.
Figueroa is in her fifth year teaching math and was comfortable quoting John Hattie research to support her strategies for meeting the needs of the At-Risk student population in her classroom. The most powerful testimony to her success in avoiding being just another statistic in the current trends of teacher burnout and turnover, is the story she tells about her “Inspirational Teacher Hero” who is, as is Figueroa, a graduate of Castleford High School.
Figueroa paused for a few thoughtful moments to relay her story. She tilted her head, laughed affectionately and said, “I can sum it all up in one funny story. Let me tell you about one day in Ms. Elly Lowman’s class and then you’ll understand.”
According to Figueroa, Loman taught English and Junior History. Because of Castleford District’s unique size, Lowman taught all of the junior students at Castleford’s High School in one class period every day. So it was often Lowman’s duty to deliver the day’s announcements during her Junior U.S. History class.
“I specifically remember one day when Elly Loman explained to our class that the Castleford School District finances were going under and students would have to start to pay for use of the school facilities.”
“She handed out a very official-looking document that listed all the school facilities we were going to have to pay for.”
“If we were going to sharpen pencils it was going to cost us a dollar. If we were going to sit in the desks it would cost us ten dollars. If we wanted to use school textbooks it would cost us five dollars.”
“We were looking at this list and the whole class just erupted. We were all so angry. We were fighting with her as if it were her fault. We knew it wasn’t her and that it was the school that was doing it but we were yelling and people were sitting on the floor yelling ‘If I have to pay for this desk I’m not going to use it!’
She (Lowman) just kept saying, ‘Now remember, this isn’t me that’s doing this, I’m sorry…I’m just the messenger….’”
Then something unexpected happened to Castleford’s junior class.
Figueroa’s smile was broad as she explained, “At the height of our anger she told us to put down the papers and to take a deep breath and to calm down and to sit in our desks. Then she said, ‘I want you to think about when America was starting their country and Britain was starting to tax these Americans.’ We were all stunned. She turned the entire experience around and made it into this lesson about the beginning of the Revolutionary War. We were still confused and we all screamed, ‘You betrayed our trust!’”
But as Figueroa pointed out, what Loman did was go the extra mile for the treasures of deeper learning.
“It was one of the most impactful lessons I’ve ever had. She took what could have been a quick read from a textbook and made it an emotional connection that we had with American settlers. She was that kind of teacher.”
“We’re still Facebook friends today. She’s always encouraged me to be a lifelong learner and she still shares what she’s reading…she’s one of the most inspiring teachers I’ve ever had. That’s my story of Elly Loman.”
Both Loman and Figueroa are Castleford High School graduates and proud of it. Hats off to Elly Loman, for inspiring minds and teaching to make a difference.
When Castleford’s legendary Elly Loman was interviewed, she was reluctant to point out just one teacher who inspired her.
“As far as a teacher who had a positive influence on me, that’s tougher. As a graduate (and now teacher) at Castleford, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I had several teachers who were excellent teachers and role models. They include my third-grade teacher, Mr. Garland Kyles, my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Richard Dykes, and my math teacher and coach Mrs. Laurie Howard. All of them (and others) influenced me in a positive way. I guess I could expand with this: Mrs. Laurie Howard was not only an effective teacher but she has also helped me become a better teacher.”
Elly Loman is writing her masters thesis paper on digital media in the ELA classroom.