New English teacher enjoys writing, making connections


Nai'a Suda , Reporter


Lily VandenLangenberg is a first year teacher here at DPHS, and this is her experience so far.

Q: What is it like to be a first year teacher, and have you enjoyed teaching here so far?

A: I have loved teaching here so far.  It’s so much fun.  It’s a lot being a first year teacher, not necessarily bad, but there’s so many moving parts throughout the school day, and now that we’re 2 full months in, I think I’m finally hitting my groove.  I have routines set in place, and I am recognized throughout the school.  I don’t get too many weird looks like “Is that person a student?” anymore.

Q: Why did you decide to teach at De Pere High School over other schools?

A: I did my student teaching here, and I really loved the atmosphere and the students were all very academic, smart, and kind, which was nice.  My colleagues were super fun, and I felt a real bond with them.  I wasn’t planning on staying in the area, but when I got offered the job, I was able to teach theater and really fun classes, and I knew that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. 

Q: How was your high school experience and did you like high school?

A: Everything that happened in school was phenomenal. I had some amazing teachers, and the classes I took were phenomenal.  I was involved in a lot of music and theater activities which I loved, which obviously created a love for theater, which is what I do now. Shout out to Preble. They did all right.

Q: Did you like college?  What was your college experience like?

A: I went to Northern Michigan University and will talk up NMU to anybody who will listen. I loved my experience up there.  I’m going up there in a few weeks to visit some friends who are still there, like 10/10 I would recommend.

Q: What did you want to be growing up?

A: I wanted to be a vet, and then I realized that I don’t do blood. That went out the door. Then for a while I wanted to be an agriculture teacher because I had an amazing agriculture teacher in middle school.  Then my high school agriculture teacher was not so great, and I was like, “I don’t want to be a teacher anymore.” Then, until the second half of my senior year in high school, I was thinking I was going to school for something biology related like clinical laboratory sciences or something like that.  Then I had really great language arts teachers, and I was like, “Maybe I want to be an English teacher instead,” and here we are.

Q: What do you like about teaching ELA?

A: I like how personable it is.  Nothing against math, but you don’t get to talk about feelings all too much in math unless it’s frustration on how you did on that test.  I like that in ELA we can talk about what experiences you have had in life, how you feel about this topic, and I like the connection I get to build with kids.  It’s the same thing with theater as well.  I hope my classrooms are a place where you can just be unapologetically yourself. Even if you’re not great at reading or writing, you can still feel welcome.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?

A: Strengths: connecting with students.  I feel like with every single one of my students, I know something about them that’s not school related.  Obviously the ones who are more chatty and more outgoing I tend to know more about, but even the quiet ones I work hard to make sure that I have some sort of idea of who they are other than the grade that’s in the grade book.  Weaknesses: probably my organizational skills.  They are still getting there.  I am still trying to find systems that work for me.

Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?

A: I have like two different types.  I like reading young adult high action, but I also do audio books. I also listen to history books. I listened to one which was about the Buddhist teachings of unconditional self love, and it was just really interesting.  I didn’t necessarily listen to it so I could practice it but more so I could learn about it.  The most recent book I read was all about ancient women and how they ruled the battlefields which was really cool.

Q: What’s your favorite book?

A: Probably Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley.  It’s a new book. It takes place in the Ojibwe (tribe), which is where I went to high school. It talks a lot about what it’s like being a Native American today.  It’s very very good, very sad but interesting and exciting and it talks about things like drugs and assaults and the disparities between Native Americans and non-Native Americans.  It’s just fascinating, very good 10/10.

Q: Do you like to write your own stories?  If so, what kinds of stories?

A: I will admit I wasn’t super into writing before I started teaching creative writing.  I mostly write when I was assigned to write, but now that I am in creative writing, I find a lot of enjoyment writing the types of stories my students are writing.  I am currently in the process of writing a musical that will probably never get published, but I have been doing it just for fun.

Q: What are some hobbies/things you like to do outside of school?

A: Not going to lie: I do watch a fair amount of crappy reality TV, but it is what it is.  I play board games a lot with my family.  I play video games with my family.  I hike and go outside.  I love to travel. I am into anything outdoorsy.  I don’t like working out – I will not just go out and run because that sounds miserable – but I will go on a hike, canoeing, kayaking, swimming.