Laura Stiles: Teaching about Countries and Compassion
May 4, 2016
“What are you up to now?” History teacher Laura Stiles suddenly called out to me in an intrigued manner, just as I had concluded the interview and was stepping out the door with my tape recorder gripped firmly in my hand. I had not had her as an instructor since sophomore year and yet the room was still dripping of nostalgic memories, subtly reminding me of how- despite the fact that it had not changed one bit- I sure had. And she was aware of this. I caught myself after she posed the question to me, a bit surprised, considering I had just gotten through asking her about her life story and now she was asking me mine.
“Oh, I’m going to Michigan State next year- hopefully studying law.”
“That doesn’t surprise me one bit,” She said in response, smiling in an all-knowing manner to herself.
Laura Stiles is a history teacher, not just because she enjoys learning the history of the world but simply because she enjoys learning the history of her students as well.
It hadn’t always been social studies, though. Stiles recalls a time when she was relatively unsure about what grade level and subject she wanted to specialize in ; she can vividly recall a time when she herself was a student residing in a desk rather than behind one and the only thing she herself was sure of was that she wanted to teach.
“It was my fourth grade teacher,” Stiles replied, pausing reminiscently. “She was actually the one who first inspired me to become an instructor. I remember that when it was the end of the day and you were getting ready to leave, she would lean down and plant a big, wet kiss on your cheek. All that would be left was a stain of red lipstick.”
That fourth grade teacher taught Stiles more than grammar and algebra, whether she was aware of this or not; she taught her the importance of going into something you love. And, unlike most children her age, Stiles first became fascinated with the process of learning when she was merely a little girl. As an elementary student, she would quietly sit- soaking in all of the information from her proctors as if she was a sponge being dropped in a bucket of water. As time progressed and she entered high school; what evidently set her apart from her peers was her elevated maturity level and overall dedication. Stiles commented that she was “pretty quiet” and “stayed out of trouble” for the most part because she was solely focused on both academics and athletics, as opposed to spending her time shooting around paper airplanes around and discreetly passing notes. Throughout her four years, she was always at some game, whether that game be for basketball, hockey, or softball. She was a three sport athlete who divided her time evenly, excelling both on the field and off of it. It is safe to proclaim that she really did not have the time to get involved in mischief.
Now, Stiles solely focuses on her students. The history classes she teaches describe the struggles of ancient civilizations, the bloody massacres of tribes, and the devastating fall of reputable empires. Her class teaches more than just important dates and miscellaneous facts, however, it teaches the importance of empathy.
“ I want them to get something out of this class,” Stiles said thoughtfully. “ Besides the fact that I hope they atleast find history interesting, I hope that they’ve learned how to have a little compassion for others around them. I personally think that if you can understand even a little bit of what people go through, which is what my history lessons teach, you can ultimately end up learning a lot.”
Others who have had the opportunity to know Stiles agree that she practices what she preaches; she attempts to understand her students and put herself in their shoes.
“Stiles is one of the most enthusiastic and energetic teachers I’ve ever worked with,” co teacher Jonathan Fisher commented. “ Her ability to connect with students and constantly reinvent her lessons so that they are easy to understand and fun is learn is absolutely amazing.”
Students proclaim that what makes Stiles unique as a teacher is the fact that she “knows what it’s like to be a highschool student.” She understands that teenagers would much rather engage in hands-on activities as opposed to properly sitting at their desks with their hands folded. Stiles emphasizes the cruciality of various activities because “life itself is hands on”; in the future, graduated students beginning their careers are not going to be handed a textbook and told to systematically solve a problem but instead given a problem and told to find a creative solution. Stiles particular learning philosophy revolves around this concept and involves incorporating all learning styles so that she can cater to everyone.
“Stiles has a one of a kind personality,” said senior Mya Herman, after being asked why Stiles is able to relate to everyone. “What makes her such a great teacher is that she cares about each individual person in her class; she cares about whether they understand the material and makes it a priority to be reasonable and fair. She just has a kind heart is all.”