We tend to throw around the words “hero” and “inspiration” a little too often, but every once in a while there comes a figure who proves those words still have their spark and conviction. Lisa D., Walnut High School English International Baccalaureate teacher and club advisor, practically defines them. There is simply no one quite like her, and I’m positive that there never will be. My friends might think that I’m “wasting my time” for writing this article, but I really want Ms. D. to know that I think what she’s doing is so very important. Ms. D. is one of the founders of the IB program at Walnut High School, and she currently teaches senior Higher Level English. The International Baccalaureate program is challenging. Based on international standards of achievement, the IB program is definitely not the easy way out. But taking the road less traveled has its own special rewards, and I for one am truly thankful for having the opportunity to do so. I could go on about the stress and time management, independent learning environment, and approach to analyzing things critically, but aside from the academics I truly feel that the bonds I’ve made have made all the hard work worth the effort. This may sound a little far-fetched, but in a lot of ways she reminds me of Erin Grumwell from the movie Freedom Writers. The movie is about an inspiring teacher who finds a unique way to break through to her hardened students despite the collusion of forces working against them. Okay so we IB students don’t have to deal with gang violence, and we don’t come from disadvantaged backgrounds either, but we go through our own kind of struggles. Between EEs (Extended Essayâ€”4000 word paper), HLs (Higher Level Classes), and IOCs (Individual Oral Commentary), a S.O.S. is what we need. But Ms. D. reminds us that procrastination and complaining are unacceptable. Yesterday was the deadline for all excuses. Her determination, diligence, and dedication have helped us to make intentional choices to realize our full potential. Growing up, Ms. D. had to face the deaths of some of her closest friends. And while her peers were out partying and doing drugs, she stayed true to her religious ideals. In revealing her personal stories she reminds us what gives our lives meaning and power. Living in a small suburb, Walnut students tend to live pretty sheltered lives. The other day one of my classmates asked me who Snoop Dog is. So we’re not exactly the “coolest” kids on campus, but we chose this life, and Ms. D. reminds us to take everything we can out of this experience. From the moment we stepped into that classroom “every voice that told [us we couldn’t was] silenced...every reason that [told us] things [would] never change [disappeared]...and the person [we] were before [that] moment - that person’s time [was] over” (Eric Grumwell). She challenges us to live on their own terms, unbound by rules and false limitations. An assignment we had over the holidays was to do a favor for someone else. Someone in my class helped at a hospital, someone else volunteered at a museum, another simply helped an elderly woman carry her grocery bags to her car. But there was more to it than that. The people we were helping went on to other people. Each act of kindness was contagious; it was like a chain reaction. One assignment helped a community of people. Ms. D. reminds us that making a difference in other people’s lives can be as simple as that. She tells us firsthand how what we’re studying relates to the real worldâ€”something a textbook can’t do. Intelligence, commitment, and raw energy all rolled up in one. I think that’s pretty cool.
December 6, 2008