Having a parent teaching in the building is an opportunity only a few students get to experience

Ellie McDowell

More stories from Ellie McDowell

It takes a village
April 19, 2023
Rebecca and Eli Lipke on the first day of school

Kevin Lipke

Rebecca and Eli Lipke on the first day of school

For a few students, going to school isn’t an escape from their parents. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just not something all students get the chance to experience.

A lot of these students love that they get to utilize the advantages of their parents’ jobs and get help when they are confused or miss a day of school.

“I think [having my dad here] can be useful,” said senior Thomas Smith whose dad is math teacher Joe Smith. “I have access to the teacher at home when I have questions, which is definitely helpful with pre-calculus.”

Thomas has been around the high school since he was young, and this means that coming into high school, he knew a lot about the layout of the school, and he knew quite a few teachers.

He has utilized his dad’s job at FHC to his advantage, such as building relationships with upperclassmen and with teachers.

“I was more comfortable up here,” Thomas said, “and I knew the building, teachers, and some of the students far more than I would have without him here. I was definitely far friendlier with some upperclassmen, because they had him, and they knew who I was. I’ve been a part of our theater program for four years because he pushed me to do that and he knew Mrs. DeMeester, [which helped me] get a position, which has been really useful and fun. I do feel like occasionally I get slightly more leeway with some teachers, just cause they know I’m a good kid, and they know my dad.”

Thomas isn’t the only student at FHC who has found an easier transition into high school thanks to his dad working there. Junior Liam Manders–his dad is Jeff Manders, FX and history teacher– has found that knowing the layout of the building and the upperclassmen have helped his transition and made him less nervous about high school as a whole.

“I’ve known people for years,” Liam said, “even people who graduated before I got to high school. I was also more familiar and comfortable with being up here. Some of my friends were a little more worried about what high school would be like, where I knew what to expect, and could make choices based on that, as well as taking courses.”

Liam has taken a couple of classes with his dad over the years. Manders teaches Media Communications, FX, Civics, and AP Government. Liam took Media Communications with his dad when he was a freshman, and hopes to take AP Government with him next year.

Liam’s interactions with his dad aren’t much different at school than they are at home.

“I would say [our interactions are] slightly different,” Liam said. “I know I acted a little differently because I was more comfortable in the class, but it was a lot like the other kids.”

Manders agrees with Liam on the fact that it’s not really any different at school than at home. When he had Liam for Media Communications, he didn’t really care. He didn’t treat him much differently, although he does believe that he does a more thorough job of embarrassing Liam at school than at home. Although he can be annoying at home, he loves to talk to Liam in the hallways.

“I probably try to embarrass him, which isn’t very nice of me,” Manders said. “Like I scream at him in the hallway, and then he’ll ignore me. Other than that, at home no, [it’s not really any different]. I’m also pretty annoying at home I think.”

Manders loves to have Liam at the high school and is looking forward to having his daughter starting in fall of 2022.

“I think it’s really nice,” Manders said. “I think it’s fun seeing him in the hallway every now and again or [when] he pops into my class because he needs money. [Him and his friends] pop in after school so they can avoid the parking lot traffic. Next year he’ll be a senior, and then my daughter will be here, and I think that will be cool having both of them. Then he’ll leave me forever and never talk to me again.”

Math teacher Rebecca Lipke agrees with Manders completely. She loves having her son—freshman Eli Lipke—at the high school with her.

She was surprised at the start of the year that he seems to reciprocate her excitement.

“I thought he would ignore me, and I wouldn’t see him as much,” Lipke said. “He’s a teenage boy, so I just kind of thought that’s how it would go. It’s nice. I see him a couple of times a day. He says ‘Hi mom’ when he sees me in the hallway. It’s been nice to have more of a normal interaction than I thought we were going to have.”

Lipke is careful to make sure Eli gets to fully experience high school, even with his mom at school. She does, however, like that she gets to see how he interacts with people.

It’s nice. I see him a couple of times a day. He says ‘Hi mom’ when he sees me in the hallway. It’s been nice to have more of a normal interaction than I thought we were going to have.”

— Rebecca Lipke

“At school, I try to give him space so he can have his own high school experience,” Lipke said. “I already did this with [my daughter] Zoe, who graduated last year. I feel like they deserve to be able to have their own experience, and that means mom can’t always be in their business. It’s nice to see stuff I might not normally see and see how they interact with friends.”

Lipke reflects on having her kids at school, and she is overall glad she does. She loves being able to watch them be teenagers through the eyes of a teacher and relishes the opportunity to have a slightly different experience than most parents.

“I enjoy it a lot,” Lipke said. “It makes coming to work really nice when I know I’m going to see one of my kids during the day. It’s sad when you’re a parent and you don’t see your kids all day. I at least get to come here and see one of my kids during the day; it’s really satisfying.”