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English and Creative Writing

Lydia Wells ’15

I started working at Lake Forest Academy (a private boarding school for students in grades 9-12) in the summer of 2015, less than a month after graduating from Lake Forest College. I currently teach English to three sections of freshmen and one section of juniors. In addition to my full-time teaching duties I act as an advisor for a select group of students, proctor study hall, host a winter bowling program, teach a summer English program, act as a departmental representative for the Academic Technology committee, and serve as the faculty advisor for the school’s literary magazine. Needless to say, I remain very busy! Working at a boarding school is unlike any of my previous teaching placements as it allows me to live and work amongst my students. This approach creates a much more supportive and personal environment. We are more than just a high school: we are both a family and a tight-knit community.

How did you choose your area of study? 

Ever since I was little I have loved reading, writing, and sharing stories with others. I find that great literature allows us to explore complex (and often challenging, taboo, or highly charged) themes and topics within the safe confines of “fiction.” As a teacher these wonderful texts allow my students to easily and concretely grapple with everyday issues ranging from racial injustice to identity. I was always unsure of what I wanted to “do” or “be” in life, but in college I was invited to work in the Writing Center and I discovered that I could indeed do what I loved for a living! For the first time I was able to put abstract theory into practice, and ever since then I have worked toward achieving my dream of becoming a high school teacher.

How has your work in English at Lake Forest helped you in your career?  Do you think the skills you developed as an English major helped you obtain a job?  Do you use those skills in your current work?

The skills that I developed at Lake Forest College not only helped me obtain my current job, but they are the same skills which I aim to teach my own students. At Lake Forest College I learned how to persevere through the long and difficult processes of reading, writing, and analyzing literature, and I also learned how to push my ideas further in terms of support, analysis, and research. The English Department taught me to think both creatively critically and to defend my ideas. Overall, this makes me a better person, a better teacher, and a better citizen as I can constantly question the world around me.

Has the study of English impacted your life beyond the job? If so, how?

Personally, the study of English, my job, and my personal life are intertwined and very closely connected. For example, whether I am shopping in the grocery store or driving in my car I am always in “teacher mode” and therefore thinking up new ideas for creative lesson plans and how I can best serve my students. Because of this I am constantly racing around trying to find a sticky note to write down my lightbulb moments! Inspiration for teaching a specific skill, concept, or work of literature can come in the form of a current event, a song, a YouTube video, or even a quote, and these wonderful ideas are always around us.  

What was most enjoyable/memorable about studying English at Lake Forest?

The most enjoyable and memorable moment I had while studying English at Lake Forest College was when I was selected to present one of my college papers at the 2013 Steven Galovich Student Symposium. It was my first semester at Lake Forest College (I transferred from a local community college) and I was floored that my professor thought my paper was good enough to publish and present! This gave me so much confidence as a new student who had just transferred to this completely new school environment. By being selected to share my writing with others I was able to follow the entire writing process from the early stages of brainstorming and drafting to the final stages of revising, editing, and presenting to a live audience. This experience further solidified my desire to teach and share literature. 

Do you have any advice for students pursuing English studies?

For those pursuing English studies I strongly encourage sharing your writing and thoughts in any way possible. Whether it is going to the Writing Center, attending a lecture, or sharing your work at a poetry slam, literature is meant to be read, listened to, and above all else, shared.