As one reads the story of Laurel Springs School World Languages teacher Lisa Bechtold’s, the only logical conclusion one would be able to draw is that she was meant to be a teacher. After all, she is now entering her 30th year on the job! From her childhood delivering lessons to neighborhood children in her basement “classroom” to travels that led her to teaching on a Navajo reservation in Arizona and throughout rural and urban regions of Oregon, Ms. Bechtold’s lifelong journey has led her to discover valuable insights into the art of teaching and uses them to inform and inspire students on a daily basis.
How long have you been teaching? What made you want to become a teacher?
I wanted to be a teacher since Kindergarten, when I would go through the materials teachers would give away at the end of the year and set up my own “summer school” in the basement of my family’s house. I used to beg neighborhood kids to attend and pretty much forced my sister and brother to take “lessons” from me.
What excited you about the thought of teaching with Laurel Springs? How does it differ from teaching in a traditional setting?
I have been teaching online since 2004, and I have called Laurel Springs home since 2008. While it has had many iterations, my love for online education always comes back to the essential elements: working with students one on one and developing a connection; making the family a part of the educational process; and using new ideas in creative ways to work with students from all over the world. Online learning with Laurel Springs continually changes and challenges me professionally – I love that.
Teaching Latin, what are the common challenges students face when learning a world language and how do you help them overcome these challenges?
Learning a world language when it is not through traditional immersion forces a student to overcome weaknesses in what they understand about their native language, both grammatically and in its structure. I support Latin students in learning both the target language of Latin and its classical connections to modern Romance languages, then fill in the gaps with what they know about English language and its structure.
Describe your favorite lesson or activity that you teach?
My favorite lessons are the ones the students and I personalize together. When a student is excited about a new or creative way of meeting standards and we structure a project to meet the course guidelines and their interests, the result is always amazing.
If you could give a student three pieces of advice on how to succeed in school or life, what would they be?
1) Learn to see failure as an opportunity to grow.
2) Creativity is the highest form of learning.
3) Knowledge and understanding are not always reflected in a test grade.
What advice do you give parents who are new to this type of learning environment?
One piece of advice I give to parents when enrolling with Laurel Springs is to recognize that, just like a traditional brick-and-mortar school, “finding your way” online can take a little bit of time. Make sure to ask questions, communicate your needs, and be involved in the process so that both you and your child understand it. It is also helpful to assist your child in setting up a realistic structure for their schedule and support them by holding them accountable to it.
What’s the best piece of teaching advice you ever received?
Respond, don’t react.
What one lesson would you like your students to remember about your course?
Learning a new language, whether in English or Latin, is a doorway to understanding more about yourself and your world.
What is the most rewarding part about being a teacher?
The most rewarding part of teaching is the connections I make with students and families. These connections often last for decades beyond the end of the course itself.
In teaching or in life, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
In both teaching and in life, I am most proud of the relationships I have made with my family, friends, students, parents, and fellow educators. Regardless of the distance or the delivery system, these relationships endure.
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be doing?
It’s hard to imagine not teaching; it is one of the essential elements of who I am. If I weren’t teaching, however, I would like to think I would be a travel writer, or children’s book illustrator and author.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
I love to work on art in various forms, writing, hiking, walking, travel and reading!
What are your words to live by?
Two separate quotes come to mind, as they are pinned to my desk.
One is, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This is a line from my favorite poet, Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day. The other is from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love: “All will be well. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.”