By Zahra Chaudhry, Senior Editor ‘18
There are three new teachers at Lauralton this year, and each of them deserves a proper introduction to the student body. We spoke to Mrs. Bowman, Ms. Reed, and Ms. Lu about their areas of expertise, backgrounds, and experience at the school so far.
Where are you from, both originally and most recently?
Bowman: I grew up in upstate New York, in the hills of a finger lakes town. I grew up in the quintessential log cabin in the woods, so compared to suburban Connecticut, it really is two different worlds. I went to a very small school, in a small town, and got a great public school education. I loved it there, and I miss it dearly. I moved to Connecticut when my husband found a teaching job here.
Reed: Originally, I’m from Avon, CT. I went to school at Fordham University in New York, and I ended up living in the City for close to ten years, right up until the beginning of this school year. It’s really nice to be back in a green space; I miss the City a lot less than I thought I would.
Lu: I am originally from Taichung, Midwest Taiwan. Now I live in Bridgeport, CT.
What did you study in college?
Bowman: For my undergraduate years, I studied history and anthropology, with a strong Native American focus—there were reservations very close to campus. For grad school, I studied public history—which included museum studies, collections management, etc.
Reed: I double majored in history and the Classical languages, Latin and Greek.
Lu: I studied music performance and music education in Taiwan. My main instrument is the Erhu, a two-string Chinese fiddle. For graduate school, I got my masters degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Sheffield, UK. I am currently doing my doctoral degree in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.
What classes do you teach?
Bowman: Modern World History, US Government, and AP Euro
Reed: I teach all levels of Latin—1, 2, 3, and AP.
Lu: I teach two classes – Chinese 2H and Chinese 3H/4H.
Why did you choose to come teach at Lauralton?
Bowman: After teaching at St. Joes, and then shortly at a charter school, I realized that I missed the Catholic school environment. Of course, the all girls element, here at Lauralton, was completely new to me. I was shocked at how quiet my freshmen were on Orientation Day, but all of my classes have been that way. There’s a very strong academic focus here that the school should be very proud of.
Reed: There are a million things that struck me about Lauralton. So often, I notice that people either emphasize hard work and achievement or warmth and caring for others, it’s not often that you see really, really hard working people who are also so focused on being kind and giving. One story that I think really illustrates the character of people here is that time a cat got stuck on the roof in September. Most places, people would be like, “Eh, call the fire department.” But here, I was just so awed by how Principal Gallant came out, and Cheeto spent like 45 minutes trying to get this cat down. And then, the business development office just had it in their office, and they played with it and fed it. I was just thinking, this captures how caring this school is.
Lu: I knew the previous Chinese teacher here, because we both taught at the New Haven Chinese School on Sundays. She asked me if I was interested in teaching, because she had to leave and Lauralton needed a good Mandarin teacher.
In Taiwan, I studied at a Catholic, all-girls school (Stella Matutina Girls’ High School) for six years, so I immediately felt the connection. I believed this school would provide a safe and healthy environment, and that the students would have good moral character. I came in and observed the Chinese classes on March 22, and it was exactly as I thought it would be – the students were lovely, enthusiastic, kind, and respectful. Even though I didn’t get the chance to talk to many teachers, I could see everyone enjoyed being here, and that they liked their jobs and their students. So, that’s why I figured Lauralton was the ideal place for me.
How would you describe your teaching style?
Reed: For AP, so much of it is just like a Classics literature class. We’re studying stories; we’re currently reading The Aeneid. History and culture is a really integral part of studying Latin. With modern languages, you can constantly incorporate the cultural elements directly into the study of the language itself. With Latin, it’s almost one or the other. I’m trying to make it so that students get a balance of both linguistics and the background. They need to learn about the ancient world to understand why the language is worth studying.
Lu: I believe that teaching should be student-centered. I see myself as a coach as well as a facilitator. As a coach, I demonstrate my expertise by teaching and showing students what they need to know. As a facilitator, I promote self-learning and help students develop critical thinking skills. I emphasize learning by doing and learning by discovering. I challenge students to make connections, think critically, and find their voices.
Where does your love of your subject come from?
Bowman: I’ve always been infatuated with history. I grew up in a tiny farming community, and was fascinated with the old things that I found—like my grandpa’s slate, which he used in school to write on. I was intrigued by the out-house that my grandma had, I would think, wow, this is what they had before indoor plumbing!
I don’t come from a family of historians or teachers, I just found it a passion for it. How cool is it that I now get to work here, in this 19th century mansion?
Reed: My dad gave me a book of mythology when I was about five that had these really beautifully illustrated stories from some of the most important Greek and Roman tales. They felt like fairy tales to me, except—more exciting. When I was in middle school, I started studying Latin, and it just clicked for some reason. I’ve always loved language in general, and Latin’s especially great, because it’s so formulaic, and complex, and rich. So, I stuck with it all the way through college. Also, I’ve always thought that I was just English, Irish, and German. But recently, I found out through my aunt’s DNA test that I’m like 5.5% Italian and Greek. It’s so minuscule, but I’ll take it!
Lu: My deep love of the Chinese language comes from my background – I’m a native speaker of Chinese, growing up in Taiwan. Also, playing Chinese music, and doing research on Chinese and Taiwanese culture and music makes me love the language even more. Coming to the US, I wanted to share my love of the Chinese culture and language with the people I meet.
Do you think that there is anything particularly distinctive about Lauralton, or Lauralton students? What observations have you made about the school over the past several months?
Bowman: There is definitely a difference here compared to other schools. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to teach at a single sex school, but I am very happy with it now that I have experienced it. I love it. Students feel comfortable expressing their opinions in a way I haven’t quite seen. There’s a real sense of unity and safety in the classroom that you can’t get at a co-ed school. There’s something different, unique, and beautiful about the learning environment here that facilitates focus, and takes the distractions out of the equation. I’ve never had a moment where I felt like my students weren’t fully engaged. There’s rarely a quiet moment, unless they’re thinking. Probably the thing I appreciate most is that students love to contribute.
Longer class periods made me nervous at first, but I’m all on board now. I can do more in one class–use more historical documents, and get deeper into the material. In my AP class, especially, there’s just much more that I can do that I couldn’t in the 45 minute setting at other schools.
Reed: I can’t do much comparing to other schools, because this is my first year teaching. But, I do remember what it was like when I was in school, and I would say Lauralton girls are more focused and more eager to learn. They get so worried about not doing well, and it’s so funny, because then they always do well. I’m hesitant to say that stress is ever a good thing, but I think people here use it well.
There is such a lovely and supporting environment here. Being a teenaged girl is the hardest thing in the world, but the girls here just love to root each other on. Even the fact that girls feel comfortable sometimes crying here is really beautiful. This is not a cut-throat place; it’s challenging, but I don’t think it encourages the wrong attitudes in people. I feel really lucky to be here.
Lu: Lauralton makes me feel like a part of a family. I have felt welcomed since joining this community. People here are nice, kind, and sincere. The girls are smart, diligent, and passionate about their learning. They are treated like adults, and given a lot of freedom and respect, which empowers them to make good decisions, to speak up, and to take on responsibility.
From my observations over the past three months, one thing that makes Lauralton special is that it’s a Catholic all girls’ school, and it’s a mercy school. Even though not all of the faculty and staff are Catholic, the core value of “mercy” is deeply rooted in the heart of the Lauralton family. We share the same goal of putting our students, the young women, at the center. We know our job is to help them grow intellectually, socially, mentally, and physically.
Photos: Courtney Durso ’18