In another life, Elizabeth Contreras may have considered becoming a travel-vlogging, panda-raising, rally race car driver, but she’s not about to rewrite history–only teach it. “I do not think I could be anything other than an educator, it is in my very DNA and I love it!” She recently shared her story of how she landed at Laurel Springs, what she loves about the experience, and her advice for future historians.
Life Imitating School
Dr. Contreras knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she was in sixth grade. “We each had to be teacher for the day. I was the social studies teacher and remember loving seeing my ‘students’ learn what I was teaching them. It was a very powerful memory and when I was finishing college I remembered how meaningful it was and decided to pursue teaching.” Flash forward to now, she has a Masters in History and is back to teaching Social Studies but this time to older, Upper School students. “Education was an easy choice because it enabled me to communicate my love of history to others.”
Most families find Laurel Springs while they’re looking for alternative schooling options for their children. Elizabeth discovered Laurel Springs when she was interested in teaching from home. Now, she isn’t the only LSS fan in her family. Recently, she decided to enroll her son in the Lower School program. “Because of COVID, we are at home so I wanted a Kindergarten alternative…Also, he has a late birthday and public kindergartens will not enroll him until next fall. He is too smart to start Kindergarten at 6, so we took the chance to get him going now. He is also very independently minded and the asynchronous nature of the curriculum suits his learning style well.”
Finding ways to connect with students and keep them engaged is one of the biggest challenges in any classroom. The task is made more complicated when there’s a screen separating the students. So, how does Elizabeth make it work?
- Frequent communication via email
- Meeting with students in virtual classrooms
- Creating videos on how to navigate the Learning Management System and turn in assignments
- Live iClasses
- Using the comment feature for helpful feedback in the Turn It In system “helps students to understand what to do in assignments and keeps their enthusiasm high.”
Keeping the students interested is one thing, but having them apply what they’ve learned is the markings of a successful lesson. One favorite from Contreras’ class: “I really like the 6 weeks stock market project in Economics. It is interactive and fun for students and teaches them about stocks in a real-world way. Many go on to want to invest their own money.”
As an LSS teacher and parent, she also has some helpful hints for those trying to guide their children through this new frontier. Here are her top three tips:
- Reach out to teachers with questions.
- Go through the Getting Started tab slowly and carefully and learn how to find feedback and turn in assignments as well as other policies.
- Develop a consistent working schedule so that students are working in their course regularly and at a steady pace so that they do not fall behind or go too fast.
Lessons Outside the Classroom
Teaching Social Studies is more than just about studying human society for this history buff. “I like being able to connect with students all around the world. Also, since many LSS students are engaged in sports and activities that I do not know much about, I am able to learn about those endeavors in a personal way from real experts! That has been the best part!”
Also, the one lesson Elizabeth Contreras would like students to remember doesn’t have to do with history or economics at all. “I think the key to success in any field is perseverance. The things we have to work hardest for are the things we value the most. I think it is important for students to learn that the most important thing in life is not so much how far you get but how hard you work and how much you try.”