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Mrs. Lisa Penninga: English teacher and life-changer

Emma Beck, Staff Writter

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There are approximately 180 school days per year: a minimum of 1098 total hours. Some students are lucky enough to make a connection with their teachers to help them through the vigorous day. At FHC, there is one teacher that has an exceptional reputation for reaching her students and impacting their life for the better. Her name is Lisa Penninga.

Meeting Lisa Penninga

Penninga, an English teacher, has worked in the building for 13 years. She graduated from Michigan State University and subbed at FHC for two years before she started teaching full time. Her courses for 2016-2017 involve Senior Literature and Cinema, English 11, and Honors English 9.

Penninga’s teaching style, in a way, reflects her 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Hob, from Portage Central.

“[Mrs. Hob] was really passionate about literature [and] passionate about writing, and [she] really inspired me,” Penninga said.

The inspiration from her teacher led her into a career where she can pass on the inspiration and try to impact each and every student that walks through her doors.

“I try to focus on [teaching] what’s going to really impact students forever,” Penninga said.

Penninga’s influence on students will most likely last a lifetime. Even Penninga’s co-workers remember certain teachers and the influence they had on their lives.  English teacher Kelli Potts remembers teachers who cared.

“If you asked me what I learned [in school] it would be hard to articulate that, but what I [do] remember [is] the best teachers that I had and the teachers that cared about me,” Potts said.

The Atmosphere

When walking into Penninga’s room, the atmosphere instantly changes. The mundane cream walls are filled with colorful quotes and projects, and the familiar desks are replaced with tables and chairs in groups of four. Student projects line the walls as if they were on exhibition.

“It’s kind of my home away from home, so I try to make it cozy and inviting for students,” Penninga said.

In the past year she has switched from the typical desks to tables with chairs.

“I love for students to discuss and collaborate and create more of a community feel,” Penninga said.

Not only can they discuss more easily, but they can also fit all their school supplies necessary on one table without everything being crammed or falling off.  While students sit at their desks they can take one glance around the room and see colors popping from every direction with quotes and pictures.

“I believe in the power of words, both positively and negatively… so I try and put positive words around [my room], just to kind of inspire kids,” Penninga said.

Hoping she makes an impact on her students, Penninga’s love for teaching will continue on.

“I think [the students] impact me just as much as… hopefully I impact them,” Penninga said. “[And] I would love to [continue teaching] at FHC, it’s my home away from home. I love the community… and would love to see my kids come through the high school.”

Penninga’s love and passion for her job helps her create connections with the staff and students around her.

“I got hired three years ago, and [ Penninga] was on my interview team and was actually my mentor teacher,” Potts said. “Last year we became closer and became really good friends, and we still collaborate a lot and she helps me all the time”

“[She is] one of the most caring and helpful teachers I’ve ever had,” junior Kirsten Fentzke said. “She helped me feel confident in the work I create.”

“She inspires me to live life as a genuine person who treats all people with respect and kindness.” ”

— junior, Colleen Kramer

What others say about Mrs. Penninga

Mrs. Penninga is…

“Always spreading love and life to the people around her,” junior Hannah Anderson said. “She inspires me to want to reach out to others with kindness and form more personal connections.”

“The first year I was kind of drowning, and she helped me so much with lesson planning and just getting through the first year,” Potts said.

“Definitely selfless. She is such a giving person, constantly thinking about everyone around her. She lives to help others, junior Colleen Kramer said. “She is one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had. I learned so much about writing, grammar, and English in general, but I also learned so much about life.”

“Inspiring,” junior Jessica Henry said. “I did the heart to heart game with her freshman year [and] it impacted me by learning a lot more about congenital heart defects and how important it is to raise awareness so that changes can be made.”

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Mrs. Lisa Penninga: English teacher and life-changer