Each day during Teacher Appreciation Week, Spectrum is sharing a teacher’s story and how they view the work of Adventist education.
Lynsey Mize is an academy English teacher in California.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what inspired you to become a teacher?
I grew up the child of a youth pastor, so I was raised around teenagers. At some point it just becomes instinct to be drawn to them, I guess.
As for the specific subject I teach, I always loved books, but it wasn't until I was in junior high that I saw someone who loved books and made a career out of it: my seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher. She was so smart, so sophisticated, just an all-around amazing person. And she was tough. I mean really challenging. This woman had 12-year-olds reading Shakespeare like it was a totally normal thing to do. And we loved it! We loved her. Anyone who can make middle schoolers love 400-year-old writing is worthy of a little hero worship. Naturally, I wanted to be her when I grew up.
How long have you been teaching, and what subjects and grade levels do you specialize in?
This is my 10th year in a high school classroom. I've taught other levels too—post-secondary and pre-school—so it's my 12th year overall. High school is my sweet spot, though.
My subject specialty is definitely literature—specifically AP Literature and Sophomore English. I've taught those the longest and they're my absolute favorite. I've become addicted to helping students at all reading levels find books they love.
Why did you choose to work in Adventist education? What do you appreciate most about it?
I'm a proud product of Adventist education. I attended Seventh-day Adventist schools from 1st grade to grad school. Part of the draw is the comfort of what I know, but it's become more than that too. I love that Seventh-day Adventist education gives a unifying purpose beyond just education. There is a freedom in being able to bring our faith into the classroom and use it to start difficult conversations or explore important questions. Teenagers are going through a lot of evaluating the world around them and I can't imagine working with them and having this huge off-limits category of things to explore with them.
How do you balance your personal life with your teaching responsibilities?
Ok, this is a question that comes with so much baggage! If you're in your first 1–3 years of teaching or your first year at a new school, it's just not going to happen I'm sorry to say. I've never heard a teacher that didn't call their first year brutal. And even if you're further down the line in your career, it won't happen unless you make it happen. There is always more to do—more to try, more to give, more to measure yourself against. At some point, you have to tell yourself that what you gave is enough. And truly, you’re a better teacher to your students if you’re taking care of yourself in the other areas of your life.
For me, getting to the point where I felt really solid and proud of my work-life balance was a long time coming. During my first five years or so teaching, I was in a new classroom every year. I thought I'd never have a weekend or evening to myself again. Now, though, I do! Most weeks I can get all my planning for the next week—copies and all—done by the Wednesday before. I have a system that works to keep me organized. I do all my grading during my prep period, so unless there’s a big project or essay, I don't have to do any grading at home either.
How do you stay motivated and inspired as a teacher, especially during challenging times?
Will readers judge too harshly if I say "Instagram"? No, really. I've found some amazing educators on "Teachergram" who have seriously given me so many inspired ideas and helped me think about things from such a valuable perspective. The thing about Seventh-day Adventist schools is that most of them are small. We don't have colleagues in our subject areas to talk through ideas with or share our little nerdy niche pet subjects with. Instagram is a great place to find a community of educators that get excited about your subject area with you and help keep you fresh. Also, I love my school. It's not hard to stay motivated to be your best when you're giving to a place, a community, and a cause that you truly believe in.
You can help support Lynsey Mize's classroom through her Amazon Wishlist.
Raquel Mentor is the associate digital editor for Spectrum.
Photo courtesy of Lynsey Mize.
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